Dendritic cells (DCs) produce cytokines and are susceptible to cytokine-mediated activation. Thus, interaction of resting immature DCs with TLR ligands, for example nucleic acids, or with microbes leads to a cascade of pro-inflammatory cytokines and skewing of T cell responses. Conversely, several cytokines are able to trigger DC activation (maturation) via autocrine, for example TNF and plasmacytoid DCs, and paracrine, for example type I IFN and myeloid DCs, pathways. By controlling DC activation, cytokines regulate immune homeostasis and the balance between tolerance and immunity. The increased production and/or bioavailability of cytokines and associated alterations in DC homeostasis have been implicated in various human inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Targeting these cytokines with biological agents as already is the case with TNF and IL-1 represents a success of immunology and the coming years will expand the range of cytokines as therapeutic targets in autoinflammatory and autoimmune pathology.