The intestinal tract represents the largest mucosal surface and is a major site of multifaceted interactions between the host mucosal immune system and components of the intestinal microbiota. Host immune responses to the commensal microbiota are tightly controlled and, meanwhile, the microbiota actively shapes intestinal immune responses to itself. Appreciation of these interactions during health and disease may direct therapeutic approaches to a broad range of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders in humans. In this review, we will discuss findings on how the intestinal immune system, especially adaptive immune cells, helps accommodate the large number of resident bacteria, and in turn how the microbiota shapes intestinal immune responses to achieve mutualism. © 2011 Society for Mucosal Immunology.