Antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies (ANCAs) are identified in the circulation of approximately 80% of patients with pauci-immune necrotizing and crescentic glomerulonephritis and systemic small vessel vasculitis, such as microscopic polyangiitis and Wegener granulomatosis. The most common antigen target for ANCAs is myeloperoxidase (MPO), which is found in neutrophils and monocytes. We report definitive experimental animal evidence that ANCAs are pathogenic. MPO knockout (Mpo(-/-)) mice were immunized with mouse MPO. Splenocytes from these mice or from control mice were injected intravenously into recombinase-activating gene-2-deficient (Rag2(-/-)) mice, which lack functioning B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes. All mice that received splenocytes developed mild to moderate glomerular immune deposits, but only mice that received 1 x 10(8) or 5 x 10(7) anti-MPO splenocytes developed severe necrotizing and crescentic glomerulonephritis, granulomatous inflammation, and systemic necrotizing vasculitis, including necrotizing arteritis and hemorrhagic pulmonary capillaritis. To test the pathogenic potential of antibodies alone, purified anti-MPO IgG or control IgG was injected intravenously into Rag2(-/-) mice and wild-type mice. Mice that received anti-MPO IgG but not mice that received control IgG developed focal necrotizing and crescentic glomerulonephritis with a paucity of glomerular Ig deposition. Thus, anti-MPO IgG alone was able to cause pauci-immune glomerular necrosis and crescent formation in the absence of functional T or B lymphocytes in Rag2(-/-) mice and in the presence of an intact immune system in wild-type C57BL/6J mice. This animal model offers strong support for a direct pathogenic role for ANCA IgG in human glomerulonephritis and vasculitis.