The T-cell biology of the liver is unlike that of any other organ. The local lymphocyte population is enriched in natural killer (NK) and NKT cells, which might have crucial roles in the recruitment of circulating T cells. A large macrophage population and the efficient trafficking of dendritic cells from sinusoidal blood to lymph promote antigen trapping and T-cell priming, but the local presentation of antigen causes T-cell inactivation, tolerance and apoptosis. These local mechanisms might result from the need to maintain immunological silence to harmless antigenic material in food. The overall bias of intrahepatic T-cell responses towards tolerance might account for the survival of liver allografts and for the persistence of some liver pathogens.