The aim of this multicentre study was to analyse the long-term outcome of idiopathic membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN) according to histological type and to the presence of C3 nephritic factor. Fifty patients aged 2-14 years at the onset of the study were followed over 2-20 years; 26 patients had MPGN type I, 17 had type II and 7 had type III. Treatment was variable. At the last observation, 30 patients had reached terminal and four pre-terminal renal failure. The median survival probability until renal death was 15.3, 8.7 and 15.9 years for disease types I, II and III respectively (difference between MPGN types I + III versus type II: p = 0.013). The presence of an initial nephrotic syndrome was associated with a more rapid progression (p = 0.018). C3 nephritic factor was of no prognostic value. We conclude that the outcome of MPGN mainly depends on the histological type observed.