Shigella, a Gram-negative invasive enteropathogenic bacterium, causes the rupture, invasion and inflammatory destruction of the human colonic epithelium. This complex and aggressive process accounts for the symptoms of bacillary dysentery. The so-called invasive phenotype of Shigella is linked to expression of a type III secretory system (TTSS) injecting effector proteins into the epithelial cell membrane and cytoplasm, thereby inducing local but massive changes in the cell cytoskeleton that lead to bacterial internalization into non-phagocytic intestinal epithelial cells. The invasive phenotype also accounts for the potent pro-inflammatory capacity of the microorganism. Recent evidence indicates that a large part of the mucosal inflammation is initiated by intracellular sensing of bacterial peptidoglycan by cytosolic leucine-rich receptors of the NOD family, particularly NOD1, in epithelial cells. This causes activation of the nuclear factor kappa B and c-JunNH(2)-terminal-kinase pathways, with interleukin-8 appearing as a major chemokine mediating the inflammatory burst that is dominated by massive infiltration of the mucosa by polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Not unexpectedly, this inflammatory response, which is likely to be very harmful for the invading microbe, is regulated by the bacterium itself. A group of proteins encoded by Shigella, which are injected into target cells by the TTSS, has been recently recognized as a family of potent regulators of the innate immune response. These enzymes target key cellular functions that are essential in triggering the inflammatory response, and more generally defense responses of the intestinal mucosa. This review focuses on the mechanisms employed by Shigella to manipulate the host innate response in order to escape early bacterial killing, thus ensuring establishment of its infectious process. The escape strategies, the possible direct effect of Shigella on B and T lymphocytes, their impact on the development of adaptive immunity, and how they may help explain the limited protection induced by natural infection are discussed.