Virtually all living organisms have evolved mechanisms to adapt to their environment by sensing environmental stresses and inducing the transcription of appropriate sets of response genes in a coordinated fashion. In the vertebrate immune system, the highly selective response to an environmental stimulus, often an invading microorganism, plays an especially important role in regulating the activities of, and interactions among, the many cell types involved in innate and adaptive immunity. It is now widely appreciated that the selective response to a stimulus requires the concerted action of signal transduction pathways, transcription factors, and chromatin structure. Many proteins and pathways that help to regulate a response have been characterized. However, our understanding of the gene-specific and global logic through which a highly selective response is elicited has only recently begun to emerge. © 2013 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.