Macrophages and dendritic cells are heterogenous and highly plastic bone marrow-derived cells that play major roles in renal diseases. We characterized these cells using immunohistochemistry in 55 renal biopsies from control patients or patients with glomerulonephritis as an initial step towards postulating specific roles for these cells in kidney disease. In proliferative glomerulonephritis numerous CD68 positive (pan monocyte, macrophage and dendritic marker) cells were found in both glomeruli and the tubulointerstitial space, however, a myeloid dendritic cell marker (DC-SIGN) was identified only in the tubulointerstitium. A significant number of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (identified as BDCA-2 positive cells) were seen at sites of interstitial inflammation, including follicular aggregates of inflammatory cells. Langerin positive cells (a marker of Langerhans' cells) were detectable but rare. The area of either CD68 or DC-SIGN positive interstitial cells correlated with serum creatinine. Low levels of DC-SIGN, DC-LAMP and MHC class II mRNA were present in the tubulointerstitial space in controls and increased only in that region in proliferative glomerulonephritis. We demonstrate that the CD68 positive cells infiltrating the glomerulus lack dendritic cell markers (reflecting macrophages), whereas in the tubulointerstitial space the majority of CD68 positive cells are also DC-SIGN positive (reflecting myeloid dendritic cells). Their number correlated with serum creatinine, which further emphasizes the significance of interstitial DCs in progressive glomerular diseases.