The innate immune system is the most ancestral and ubiquitous system of defence against microbial infection. The microbial sensing proteins involved in innate immunity recognize conserved and often structural components of microorganisms. One class of these pattern-recognition molecules, the Toll-like receptors (TLRs), are involved in detection of microbes in the extracellular compartment whereas a newly discovered family of proteins, the NBS-LRR proteins (for nucleotide-binding site and leucine-rich repeat), are involved in intracellular recognition of microbes and their products. NBS-LRR proteins are characterized by three structural domains: a C-terminal leucine-rich repeat (LRR) domain able to sense a microbial motif, an intermediary nucleotide binding site (NBS) essential for the oligomerization of the molecule that is necessary for the signal transduction induced by different N-terminal effector motifs, such as a pyrin domain (PYD), a caspase-activating and recruitment domain (CARD) or a baculovirus inhibitor of apoptosis protein repeat (BIR) domain. Two of these family members, Nod1 and Nod2, play a role in the regulation of pro-inflammatory pathways through NF-kappaB induced by bacterial ligands. Recently, it was shown that Nod2 recognizes a specific peptidoglycan motif from bacteria, muramyl dipeptide (MDP). A surprising number of human genetic disorders have been linked to NBS-LRR proteins. For example, mutations in Nod2, which render the molecule insensitive to MDP and unable to induce NF-kappaB activation when stimulated, are associated with susceptibility to a chronic intestinal inflammatory disorder, Crohn's disease. Conversely, mutations in the NBS region of Nod2 induce a constitutive activation of NF-kappaB and are responsible for Blau syndrome, another auto-inflammatory disease. Nalp3, which is an NBS-LRR protein with an N-terminal Pyrin domain, is also implicated in rare auto-inflammatory disorders. In conclusion, NBS-LRR molecules appear as a new family of intracellular receptors of innate immunity able to detect specific bacterial compounds and induce inflammatory response; the dysregulation of these processes due to mutations in the genes encoding these proteins is involved in numerous auto-inflammatory disorders.