• dendritic cells;
  • innate immunity;
  • tolerance

Summary:  One of the most fundamental problems in immunology is the seemingly schizophrenic ability of the immune system to launch robust immunity against pathogens, while acquiring and maintaining a state of tolerance to the body’s own tissues and the trillions of commensal microorganisms and food antigens that confront it every day. A fundamental role for the innate immune system, particularly dendritic cells (DCs), in orchestrating immunological tolerance has been appreciated, but emerging studies have highlighted the nature of the innate receptors and the signaling pathways that program DCs to a tolerogenic state. Furthermore, several studies have emphasized the major role played by cellular interactions and the microenvironment in programming tolerogenic DCs. Here, we review these studies and suggest that the innate control of tolerogenic responses can be viewed as different hierarchies of organization, in which DCs, their innate receptors and signaling networks, and their interactions with other cells and local microenvironments represent different levels of the hierarchy.