This article reviews the role of dendritic cells in cutaneous immunity. Langerhans cells (LC) found in the epidermis are the best-characterized dendritic cell population. They have the ability to process antigen in the periphery, transport it to the draining lymph nodes (DLN) where they are able to cluster with, and activate, antigen-specific naive T cells. During migration LC undergo phenotypic and functional changes which enable them to perform this function. There are other less well-characterized dendritic cells including dendritic epidermal T cells, dermal dendrocytes and dermal "LC-like' cells. Although there is no evidence that dendritic epidermal T cells (DETC) can present antigen or migrate to lymph nodes, they do influence the intensity of cutaneous immune responses to chemical haptens. Antigen-presenting cells (APC) in the dermis may provide alternative routes of antigen presentation which could be important in the regulation of skin immune responses. Therefore, dendritic cells are vital for the induction of immune responses to antigens encountered via the skin. LC are particularly important in primary immune responses due to their ability to activate naive T cells. The faster kinetics of secondary responses, and the ability of nonprofessional APC to induce effector function in previously activated cells, suggest that antigen presentation in the DLN may be less important in responses to previously encountered antigens. In these secondary responses, dendritic and nondendritic APC in the skin may directly induce effector functions from antigen-specific recirculating cells.