Research over the last 7 years has led to the formal identification of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), increased the understanding of their tissue distribution and has established essential functions of ILCs in diverse physiological processes. These include resistance to pathogens, the regulation of autoimmune inflammation, tissue remodeling, cancer and metabolic homeostasis. Notably, many ILC functions appear to be regulated by mechanisms distinct from those of other innate and adaptive immune cells. In this Review, we focus on how group 2 ILC (ILC2) and group 3 ILC (ILC3) responses are regulated and how these cells interact with other immune and non-immune cells to mediate their functions. We highlight experimental evidence from mouse models and patient-based studies that have elucidated the effects of ILCs on the maintenance of tissue homeostasis and the consequences for health and disease.