NOD (nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain) proteins are members of a family that includes the apoptosis regulator APAF1 (apoptotic protease activating factor 1), mammalian NOD-LRR (leucine-rich repeat) proteins and plant disease-resistance gene products. Several NOD proteins have been implicated in the induction of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) activity and in the activation of caspases. Two members of the NOD family, NOD1 and NOD2, mediate the recognition of specific bacterial components. Notably, genetic variation in the genes encoding the NOD proteins NOD2, cryopyrin and CIITA (MHC class II transactivator) in humans and Naip5 (neuronal apoptosis inhibitory protein 5) in mice is associated with inflammatory disease or increased susceptibility to bacterial infections. Mammalian NOD proteins seem to function as cytosolic sensors for the induction of apoptosis, as well as for innate recognition of microorganisms and regulation of inflammatory responses.