The discovery and characterization of the TLR (Toll-like receptor) family has led to a better understanding of the innate immune system. The strategy of innate immune recognition is based on the detection of constitutive and conserved products of micro-organisms. However, host molecules that are released during injury can also activate TLRs. Engagement of TLRs by microbial or host-derived molecules induces the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which may have both beneficial and detrimental effects on the host. In addition to being expressed in immune cells, TLRs are expressed in other tissues such as those of the cardiovascular system. In the present review, the role of TLRs in septic cardiomyopathy, viral myocarditis, atherosclerosis, ischaemia/reperfusion injury and cardiac remodelling after myocardial infarction are outlined, with attention paid to genetically modified murine models. Although much has been learned about stress-induced TLR activation in the tissues of the cardiovascular system, the role of individual TLRs in initiating and integrating homoeostatic responses within the heart remains to be defined. Accumulating evidence indicates that TLRs may play an important role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, viral myocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy, cardiac allograft rejection and sepsis-induced left ventricular dysfunction. Moreover, heart failure of diverse aetiology is also now recognized to have an important immune component, with TLR signalling influencing the process of cardiac remodelling and prognosis. In the present review, we outline the biology of TLRs as well as the current experimental and clinical evidence for the role of TLRs in cardiovascular diseases.