The Toll/interleukin-1 (IL-1) receptor (TIR) family comprises two groups of transmembrane proteins, which share functional and structural properties. The members of the IL-1 receptor (IL-1R) subfamily are characterized by three extracellular immunoglobulin (Ig)-like domains. They form heterodimeric signaling receptor complexes consisting of receptor and accessory proteins. The members of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) subfamily recognize alarm signals that can be derived either from pathogens or the host itself. TLRs possess leucine-rich repeats in their extracellular part. TLRs can form dimeric receptor complexes consisting of two different TLRs or homodimers in the case of TLR4. The TLR4 receptor complex requires supportive molecules for optimal response to its ligand lipopolysaccharide (LPS). A hallmark of the TIR family is the cytoplasmic TIR domain that is indispensable for signal transduction. The TIR domain serves as a scaffold for a series of protein-protein interactions which result in the activation of a unique signaling module consisting of MyD88, interleukin-1 receptor associated kinase (IRAK) family members and Tollip, which is used exclusively by TIR family members. Subsequently, several central signaling pathways are activated in parallel, the activation of NFkappaB being the most prominent event of the inflammatory response. Recent developments indicate that in addition to the common signaling module MyD88/IRAK/Tollip, other molecules can modulate signaling by TLRs, especially of TLR4, resulting in differential biological answers to distinct pathogenic structures. Subtle differences in TLR signaling pathways are now becoming apparent, which reveal how the innate immune system decides at a very early stage the direction in which the adaptive immune response will develop. The creation of pathogen-specific mediator environments by dendritic cells defines whether a cellular or humoral response will be activated in response to the pathogen.