Circulating IgG autoantibodies that produce cytoplasmic immunofluorescence staining of ethanol-fixed normal neutrophils have recently been found in a large percentage of patients with active Wegener's granulomatosis. Such autoantibodies are rarely found in other diseases and are therefore virtually diagnostic of Wegener's granulomatosis. The nature of the neutrophil antigen defined by these autoantibodies is controversial and the roles of the antigen and/or autoantibodies in the pathogenesis of Wegener's granulomatosis are unknown. We studied serum samples that produce the cytoplasmic pattern of staining from 10 patients with a diagnosis of Wegener's granulomatosis. By Western blot analysis, all 10 sera reacted with a 29- Kd neutrophil protein (p29). We generated a mouse monoclonal antibody directed against this antigen. The monoclonal antibody produced the same immunofluorescence staining pattern as the serum autoantibodies and was used to affinity-purify p29. The purified antigen had a novel N- terminal sequence homologous to members of the serine proteinase family and bound to radiolabeled diisopropyl fluorophosphate (DFP). We conclude that the neutrophil antigen responsible for the cytoplasmic staining pattern produced by autoantibodies in patients with active Wegener's granulomatosis is a distinctive serine proteinase.