The immune system evolved to protect us from microbes. The antigen (Ag)-nonspecific innate immunity and Ag-specific adaptive immunity synergize to eradicate the invading pathogen through cells, such as dendritic cells (DCZ7) and lymphocytes, and through their effector proteins including antimicrobial peptides, complement, and antibodies. Its intrinsic complexity renders the immune system prone to dysfunction including cancer, autoimmunity, chronic inflammation and allergy. DCs are unique in their capacity to induce and regulate immune responses and are therefore attractive candidates for immunotherapy. However, DCs consist of distinct subsets with common as well as unique functions that lead to distinct types of immune responses. Therefore, understanding DC heterogeneity and their role in immunopathology is critical to design better strategies for immunotherapy. Indeed, what we learn from studying autoimmunity will help us induce strong vaccine specific immunity, either protective, as in the case of microbes, or therapeutic, as in the case of tumors.