Coeliac disease is an immune-mediated disorder resulting in nutrient malabsorption now thought to have a prevalence of between 1:100 and 1:200 in the UK population. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, steatorrhoea, abdominal bloating, cramps, flatulence, weight loss, weakness and fatigue. In addition to the morbidity associated with presenting symptoms, patients are also at increased risk of metabolic bone disease, enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma and other malignancies (gastric, oesophageal, bladder, breast, brain). There appears to be a strong genetic component to this disease. This article provides a short review of the historical, clinical and genetic aspects of this disease and highlights several findings from recent structural and molecular immunology studies. A model of the pathogenesis is proposed where the contributions of innate and adaptive immune systems are delineated and the essential dual roles of gliadin (from ingested gluten) in the initiation and maintenance of this disease are summarised. Finally, potential future therapeutic options based on this new understanding are discussed.