The adaptive immune system-with its remarkable ability to generate antigen-specific antibodies and T lymphocytes against pathogens never before "seen" by an organism-is one of the marvels of evolution. However, to generate these responses, the adaptive immune system requires activation by the innate immune system. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are perhaps the best-understood family of innate immune receptors for detecting infections and stimulating adaptive immune responses. TLR9 appears to have evolved to recognize infections by a subtle structural difference between eukaryotic and prokaryotic/viral DNA; only the former frequently methylates CpG dinucleotides. Used as vaccine adjuvants, synthetic oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) ligands for TLR9--CpG ODN--greatly enhance the speed and strength of the immune responses to vaccination.