Essential differences between the innate and acquired branches of immunity are described. These differences concern the detection system (receptors and pathogen structures) and the cells engaged in both systems as well as the effectory mechanisms. In contrast to those of the acquired system, receptors of the innate system, which developed during evolution, recognize unchanged structures on large groups of pathogens (e.g. lipopolysaccharide in Gram-negative bacteria). Two lineages, natural killer (NK) and dendritic cells (DCs), play important roles in the innate system. Phenotypic and functional differentiation is observed among NKs and DCs, so each of their sublineages plays a different role in the innate system. Every lineage of cells of the innate immune system express different stimulatory and sometimes also inhibitory receptors on their surfaces (e.g. NK cells). Among the stimulatory are Toll-like receptors (TLRs), mannose and scavenger receptors, and the stimulatory receptors of NK cells. All TLRs show similarity in structure and in the kind of molecules involved in intracellular signaling. The immune reactions of the innate system involve cytokine-dependent resistance of cells against infection with pathogen, production of cytokines (tumor necrosis factor, interferons, interleukins, chemokines) and MHC-independent killing. Although these reactions protect the host from invasion by microorganisms, they can also be responsible for significant tissue damage or may stimulate the development of autoimmunity. Therefore innate immunity must be under rigorous control. The possible regulatory mechanisms of innate immunity are discussed.