T cells specific for lipid antigens participate in regulation of the immune response during infections, tumor immunosurveillance, allergy and autoimmune diseases. T cells recognize lipid antigens as complexes formed with CD1 antigen-presenting molecules, thus resembling recognition of MHC-peptide complexes. The biophysical properties of lipids impose unique mechanisms for their delivery, internalization into antigen-presenting cells, membrane trafficking, processing, and loading of CD1 molecules. Each of these steps is controlled at molecular and celular levels and determines lipid immunogenicity. Lipid antigens may derive from microbes and from the cellular metabolism, thus allowing the immune system to survey a large repertoire of immunogenic molecules. Recognition of lipid antigens facilitates the detection of infectious agents and the initiation of responses involved in immunoregulation and autoimmunity. This review focuses on the presentation mechanisms and specific recognition of self and bacterial lipid antigens and discusses the important open issues.