The members of the tumour necrosis factor (TNF)/tumour necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) superfamily are critically involved in the maintenance of homeostasis of the immune system. The biological functions of this system encompass beneficial and protective effects in inflammation and host defence as well as a crucial role in organogenesis. At the same time, members of this superfamily are responsible for host damaging effects in sepsis, cachexia, and autoimmune diseases. This review summarizes recent progress in the immunobiology of the TNF/TNFR superfamily focusing on results obtained from animal studies using gene targeted mice. The different modes of signalling pathways affecting cell proliferation, survival, differentiation, apoptosis, and immune organ development as well as host defence are reviewed. Molecular and cellular mechanisms that demonstrate a therapeutic potential by targeting individual receptors or ligands for the treatment of chronic inflammatory or autoimmune diseases are discussed.