Despite multiple associations between the microbiota and immune diseases, their role in autoimmunity is poorly understood. We found that translocation of a gut pathobiont, Enterococcus gallinarum, to the liver and other systemic tissues triggers autoimmune responses in a genetic background predisposing to autoimmunity. Antibiotic treatment prevented mortality in this model, suppressed growth of E. gallinarum in tissues, and eliminated pathogenic autoantibodies and T cells. Hepatocyte–E. gallinarum cocultures induced autoimmune-promoting factors. Pathobiont translocation in monocolonized and autoimmune-prone mice induced autoantibodies and caused mortality, which could be prevented by an intramuscular vaccine targeting the pathobiont. E. gallinarum–specific DNA was recovered from liver biopsies of autoimmune patients, and cocultures with human hepatocytes replicated the murine findings; hence, similar processes apparently occur in susceptible humans. These discoveries show that a gut pathobiont can translocate and promote autoimmunity in genetically predisposed hosts.