The innate immune system relies on its capacity to rapidly detect invading pathogenic microbes as foreign and eliminate them. Indeed, Toll-like receptors are a class of membrane receptors that sense extracellular microbes and trigger anti-pathogen signalling cascades. Recently, intracellular microbial sensors have also been identified, including NOD-like receptors and the helicase-domain-containing antiviral proteins RIG-I and MDA5. Some of these cytoplasmic molecules sense microbial, as well as non-microbial, danger signals, but the mechanisms of recognition used by these sensors remain poorly understood. Nonetheless, it is apparent that these proteins are likely to have critical roles in health and disease.