Dendritic cells (DC) constitute a unique system of cells that induce, sustain and regulate immune responses. Distributed as sentinels throughout the body, DC are poised to capture antigen (Ag), migrate to draining lymphoid organs, and, after a process of maturation, select Ag-specific lymphocytes to which they present the processed Ag, thereby inducing immune responses. DC present Ag to CD4(+) T cells which in turn regulate multiple effectors, including CD8(+) cytotoxic T cells, B cells, NK cells, macrophages and eosinophils, all of which contribute to the protective immune responses. Several key features of the DC system may be highlighted: (1) the existence of different DC subsets that share biological functions, yet display unique ones such as polarization of T cell responses towards Type 1 or Type 2 or regulation of B cell responses; (2) the functional specialization of DC according to their differentiation/maturation stages; and (3) the plasticity of DC which is determined by the microenvironment (e.g. cytokines) and may manifest as (i) the final differentiation into either DC (enhanced antigen presentation) or macrophage (enhanced antigen degradation); (ii) the induction of immunity or tolerance; and (iii) the polarization of T cell responses. Because of these unique properties, DC represent both vectors and targets for immunological intervention in numerous diseases and are optimal candidates for vaccination protocols both in cancer and infectious diseases.