We wondered whether anti-myeloperoxidase (MPO) autoantibodies (MPO-ANCA) found in patients with systemic vasculitis react with a conformational epitope or epitopes on the MPO molecule. Sera from 15 human MPO-ANCA, and a polyclonal and a monoclonal anti-MPO antibodies were reacted with MPO in native and denatured states. Human MPO-ANCA and mouse monoclonal anti-MPO reacted with native MPO, and a 120-kD band representing the MPO hologenzyme, but not with denatured MPO fragments; however, MPO-ANCA and mouse anti-MPO did not demonstrate competitive inhibition of binding to MPO. Polyclonal rabbit anti-MPO reacted with both native and denatured MPO. All MPO-ANCA tested showed the same patterns of reactivity with native and denatured MPO in dot blot and Western blot analyses. Both polyclonal and monoclonal anti-MPO antibodies inhibited MPO's protein iodination by over 90%, whereas MPO-ANCA IgGs, normal IgGs and disease control IgGs did not. These data suggest that (i) MPO-ANCA interact with a conformational epitope on the MPO molecule; and (ii) MPO-ANCA from different patients have similar reactivity with native versus denatured MPO.