Mucosal surfaces are constantly exposed to environmental antigens, colonized by commensal organisms and used by pathogens as points of entry. As a result, the immune system has devoted the bulk of its resources to mucosal sites to maintain symbiosis with commensal organisms, prevent pathogen entry, and avoid unnecessary inflammatory responses to innocuous antigens. These functions are facilitated by a variety of mucosal lymphoid organs that develop during embryogenesis in the absence of microbial stimulation as well as ectopic lymphoid tissues that develop in adults following microbial exposure or inflammation. Each of these lymphoid organs samples antigens from different mucosal sites and contributes to immune homeostasis, commensal containment, and immunity to pathogens. Here we discuss the mechanisms, mostly based on mouse studies, that control the development of mucosal lymphoid organs and how the various lymphoid tissues cooperate to maintain the integrity of the mucosal barrier. © 2014 Society for Mucosal Immunology.