Dense deposit disease (first reported in 1962) was classified as subtype II of membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis in the early 1970s. Over the last 30 years, marked differences in etiology and pathogenesis between type I membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis and dense deposit disease have become apparent. The sporadic observation that dense deposit disease can be seen with markedly different light microscopy appearances prompted this study. The goal was to examine a large number of renal biopsies from around the world to characterize the histopathologic features of dense deposit disease. Eighty-one cases of dense deposit disease were received from centers across North America, Europe and Japan. Biopsy reports, light microscopy materials and electron photomicrographs were reviewed and histopathologic features scored. Sixty-nine cases were acceptable for review. Five patterns were seen: (1) membranoproliferative n=17; (2) mesangial proliferative n=30; (3) crescentic n=12; (4) acute proliferative and exudative n=8 and (5) unclassified n=2. The age range was 3-67 years, with 74% in the range of 3-20 years; 15% 21-30 years and 11% over 30 years. Males accounted for 54% and females 46%. All patients with either crescentic dense deposit disease or acute proliferative dense deposit disease were between the ages of 3 and 18 years. The essential diagnostic feature of dense deposit disease is not the membranoproliferative pattern but the presence of electron dense transformation of the glomerular basement membranes. Based upon this study and the extensive data developed over the past 30 years, dense deposit disease is clinically distinct from membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis and is morphologically heterogeneous with only a minority of cases having a membranoproliferative pattern. Therefore, dense deposit disease should no longer be regarded as a subtype of membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis.