Plasticity is a hallmark of cells of the myelomonocytic lineage. In response to innate recognition or signals from lymphocyte subsets, mononuclear phagocytes undergo adaptive responses. Shaping of monocyte-macrophage function is an essential component of resistance to pathogens, tissue damage and repair. The orchestration of myelomonocytic cell function is a key element that links inflammation and cancer and provides a paradigm for macrophage plasticity and function. A better understanding of the molecular basis of myelomonocytic cell plasticity will open new vistas in immunopathology and therapeutic intervention.