Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphatases (MKPs) are protein phosphatases that dephosphorylate both the phosphothreonine and phosphotyrosine residues on activated MAPKs. Removal of the phosphates renders MAPKs inactive, effectively halting their cellular function. In recent years, evidence has emerged that, similar to MAPKs, MKPs are pivotal in the regulation of immune responses. By deactivating MAPKs, MKPs can modulate both innate and adaptive immunity. A number of immunomodulatory agents have been found to influence the expression of MKP1 in particular, highlighting the central role of this phosphatase in immune regulation. This Review discusses the properties, function and regulation of MKPs during immune responses.