Interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase (IRAK) was first described as a signal transducer for the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) and was later implicated in signal transduction of other members of the Toll-like receptor (TLR)/IL-1 receptor (IL-1R) family. In the meantime, four different IRAK-like molecules have been identified: two active kinases, IRAK-1 and IRAK-4, and two inactive kinases, IRAK-2 and IRAK-M. All IRAKs mediate activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways. Although earlier observations suggested that IRAKs have redundant functions, this hypothesis is now challenged by knockout studies. Furthermore, recent data imply a role for IRAK-1 in tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) superfamily-induced signaling pathways as well. The scope of this review is to highlight the specific role of different IRAKs and to discuss several mechanisms that contribute to their activation and regulation.