Pentraxins are a family of multimeric pattern recognition proteins highly conserved in evolution. On the basis of the primary structure of the protomer, pentraxins are divided into two groups: short pentraxins and long pentraxins. C reactive protein, the first pattern recognition receptor identified, and serum amyloid P component are classic short pentraxins produced in the liver in response to IL-6. Long pentraxins, including the prototype PTX3, are expressed in a variety of tissues. PTX3 is produced by a variety of cells and tissues, most notably dendritic cells and macrophages, in response to Toll-like receptor (TLR) engagement and inflammatory cytokines. Through interaction with several ligands, including selected pathogens and apoptotic cells, pentraxins play a role in complement activation, pathogen recognition and apoptotic cell clearance. In addition, PTX3 is involved in the deposition of extracellular matrix and female fertility. Unlike the classic short pentraxins CRP and SAP, PTX3 primary sequence and regulation are highly conserved in man and mouse. Thus, gene targeting identified PTX3 (and presumably other members of the family) as multifunctional soluble pattern recognition receptors acting as a nonredundant component of the humoral arm of innate immunity and involved in tuning inflammation, matrix deposition, and female fertility. © 2009 International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.