Chemokines compose a sophisticated communication system used by all our cell types, including immune cells. Chemokine messages are decoded by specific receptors that initiate signal transduction events leading to a multitude of cellular responses, leukocyte chemotaxis and adhesion in particular. Critical determinants of the in vivo activities of chemokines in the immune system include their presentation by endothelial cells and extracellular matrix molecules, as well as their cellular uptake via "silent" chemokine receptors (interceptors) leading either to their transcytosis or to degradation. These regulatory mechanisms of chemokine histotopography, as well as the promiscuous and overlapping receptor specificities of inflammation-induced chemokines, shape innate responses to infections and tissue damage. Conversely, the specific patterns of homeostatic chemokines, where each chemokine is perceived by a single receptor, are charting lymphocyte navigation routes for immune surveillance. This review presents our current understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the cellular perception and pathophysiologic meaning of chemokines.