The Toll family of class I transmembrane receptors recognizes and responds to diverse structures associated with pathogenic microorganisms. These receptors mediate initial responses in innate immunity and are required for the development of the adaptive immune response. Toll receptor signaling pathways are also implicated in serious autoimmune diseases such as endotoxic shock and thus are important therapeutic targets. In this review we discuss how microbial structures as different as nucleic acids and lipoproteins can be recognized by the extracellular domains of Toll receptors. We review recent evidence that the mechanism of signal transduction is complex and involves sequential changes in the conformation of the receptor induced by binding of the ligand. Finally, we assess the emerging area of cross talk in the Toll pathways. Recent work suggests that signaling through TLR4 in response to endotoxin is modified by inputs from at least two other pathways acting through beta2 integrins and protein kinase Cepsilon.