Work in recent years has shown an essential role for Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in the activation of innate and adaptive immunity in vertebrate animals. These germ-line encoded receptors, expressed on a diverse variety of cells and tissues, recognize conserved molecular products derived from various classes of pathogens, including Gram-positive and -negative bacteria, DNA and RNA viruses, fungi and protozoa. Ligand recognition induces a conserved host defense program, which includes production of inflammatory cytokines, upregulation of costimulatory molecules, and induction of antimicrobial defenses. Importantly, activation of dendritic cells by TLR ligands is necessary for their maturation and consequent ability to initiate adaptive immune responses. How responses are tailored by individual TLRs to contain specific classes of pathogens is not yet clear.