Macrophage/dendritic cells and B cells remain the only cell types where direct responses to CpG DNA are well established. The role of macrophages in vivo in DNA clearance and the potent cytokine induction in macrophages and dendritic cells places them in the central role in the in vivo response to foreign DNA. Although responses to DNA are unlikely to evolve and be retained if they are not significant in the immune response to infection, the relative contributions of DNA and other stimulators of the innate immune recognition of foreign organisms is difficult to assess. Although CpG DNA and LPS have similar actions, significant differences are emerging that make the use of DNA as a therapeutic immunostimulatory molecule feasible. The macrophage response to DNA generates cytokines favouring the development of Th1-type immunity, and active oligonucleotides now show promise as Th1-promoting adjuvants and as allergy treatments.