Toll-like receptor (TLR) molecules play a frontline role in the defence of the host against infection by microbial pathogens. These molecules, together with the recently described Nod family proteins, have been shown to trigger innate immune responses in host cells via the recognition of highly conserved microbial structures. TLR4, which is the best-characterised of these "pathogen-recognition molecules" (PRMs), was the first to be shown to recognise a specific microbial component: the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from Gram-negative bacteria. The molecular specificities of the remaining PRMs have, in nearly all cases, now also been elucidated. Host cells belonging to the myeloid cell lineage are known to be particularly responsive to these microbial constituents. Conversely, other cell types such as epithelial cells, were generally thought to be hypo-responsive to stimulation by such molecules. New evidence suggests that these cells are in fact likely to play a fundamental role in host defence against pathogenic micro-organisms. Indeed, epithelial cells afford an initial barrier against the host microflora, and appear to be able to differentiate between pathogenic and commensal micro-organisms. This review article will discuss current knowledge regarding innate immune responses in epithelial and myeloid cells to the model non-invasive pathogen, Helicobacter pylori, which is a major cause of upper gastrointestinal tract disease in humans.