OBJECTIVE: Myeloperoxidase (MPO) is implicated as a local mediator of tissue damage when released extracellularly in many chronic inflammatory diseases. The purpose of this study was to explore the role of endogenous MPO in experimental rheumatoid arthritis (RA). METHODS: K/BxN serum-transfer arthritis was induced in C57BL/6 wild-type (WT) and MPO knockout (MPO(-/-) ) mice, and disease development was assessed. MPO activity was measured in joint tissues from mice with or without K/BxN arthritis. Collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) was induced in WT and MPO(-/-) mice, and disease development and immune responses were examined. MPO expression was assessed in synovial biopsy samples from patients with active RA, and the effect of MPO on synovial fibroblasts was tested in vitro. RESULTS: MPO was up-regulated in the joints of mice with K/BxN arthritis, and MPO deficiency attenuated the severity of the disease without affecting circulating cytokine levels. In CIA, MPO(-/-) mice had enhanced CD4+ T cell responses and reduced frequency of regulatory T cells in the lymph nodes and spleen, as well as augmented interleukin-17A and diminished interferon-gamma secretion by collagen-stimulated splenocytes, without an effect on circulating anticollagen antibody levels. Despite enhanced adaptive immunity in secondary lymphoid organs, CIA development was attenuated in MPO(-/-) mice. Intracellular and extracellular MPO was detected in the synovium of patients with active RA, and human MPO enhanced the proliferation and decreased the apoptosis of synovial fibroblasts in vitro. CONCLUSION: MPO contributes to the development of arthritis despite suppressing adaptive immunity in secondary lymphoid organs. This suggests distinct effects of local MPO on arthritogenic effector responses.