Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans is an important pathogen in the etiology of severe periodontitis. For epidemiological studies on the prevalence of certain pathogenic clones and transmission of this bacterium, adequate typing methods are necessary. The purpose of this study was to compare six different typing methods for A. actinomycetemcomitans. Five reference strains and 27 fresh clinical isolates from periodontitis patients were used. Serotyping showed 12 serotype a strains, 13 type b strains, 6 type c strains, and 1 nontypeable strain. Biotyping on the basis of the fermentation of mannose, mannitol, and xylose resulted in six biotypes. Antibiogram typing was evaluated by measuring the inhibition zones of seven antibiotics in agar diffusion tests. With this method eight main types which could be further differentiated into 15 subtypes were found. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis patterns of outer membrane proteins were similar among all isolates tested. Restriction endonuclease analysis (REA) of whole chromosomal DNA resulted in five main types. These five main types were further differentiated into 24 subtypes on the basis of DNA fragment differences in the high-molecular-weight region. Hybridization of DNA fragments with ribosomal DNA (ribotyping) resulted in 22 to 24 different types, depending on the restriction endonuclease used. Ribotype patterns were easy to interpret and provided an univocal distinction between different strains compared with REA results. When applied to epidemiologically related isolates, all methods were able to discriminate two clonal types among five isolates from five children from one family. We conclude that serotyping, biotyping, and outer membrane patterns were reproducible but had a low discriminatory potential. REA and ribotyping were reproducible and gave the highest number of distinct types. When the DNA typing methodis were compared, all strains tested could be distinguished. These findings confirm the heterogeneity found within the species A. actinomycetemcomitans.