Summary: The dendritic cell (DC) system of antigen-presenting cells controls immunity and tolerance. DCs initiate and regulate immune responses in a manner that depends on signals they receive from microbes and their cellular environment. They allow the immune system to make qualitatively distinct responses against different microbial infections. DCs are composed of subsets that express different microbial receptors and express different surface molecules and cytokines. Our studies lead us to propose that interstitial (dermal) DCs preferentially activate humoral immunity, whereas Langerhans cells preferentially induce cellular immunity. Alterations of the DC system result in diseases such as autoimmunity, allergy, and cancer. Conversely, DCs can be exploited for vaccination, and novel vaccines that directly target DCs in vivo are being designed.