During protective immune responses, the adaptive arm of the immune system requires activation by signals provided by innate immunity and driven by microbial stimuli. Whether the same rules apply to autoimmune diseases involving clonal self-reactive T and B lymphocytes--a process referred to here as 'adaptive autoimmunity'--is not quite clear. Nevertheless, in these diseases, the innate-adaptive connection is likely to be influenced by the microbial environment. This review integrates the results of experiments analyzing autoimmunity in sterile versus nonsterile conditions and experiments testing the role of innate immune receptor signaling in autoimmunity. It proposes that autoimmune diseases can be divided into two groups, the pathogenesis of which either follows the rules of innate-adaptive connection or does not.