Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from the outer cell wall of Gram-negative bacteria is a potent stimulator of the mammalian innate immune system. The Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) pathway triggers the inflammatory responses induced by LPS in a process that requires the interaction of LPS-bound myeloid differentiation-2 (MD-2) with TLR4. Here we propose two possible mechanisms for LPS recognition and signalling that take into account both the structural information available for TLR4 and MD-2, and the determinants of endotoxicity, namely, the acylation and phosphorylation patterns of LPS. In our first model, LPS induces the association of two TLR4-MD-2 heterodimers by binding to two different molecules of MD-2 through the acyl chains of lipid A. In our second model, the binding of LPS to a single TLR4-MD-2 complex facilitates the recruitment of a second TLR4-MD-2 heterodimer. These models contrast with the activation of Drosophila Toll, where the receptor is crosslinked by a dimeric protein ligand.