CD1 has been clearly shown to function as a microbial recognition system for activation of T cell responses, but its importance for mammalian protective responses against infections is still uncertain. The function of the group 1 CD1 isoforms, including human CD1a, CD1b, and CD1c, seems closely linked to adaptive immunity. These CD1 molecules control the responses of T cells that are highly specific for particular lipid antigens, the best known of which are abundantly expressed by pathogenic mycobacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae. Studies done mainly on human circulating T cells ex vivo support a significant role for group I CD1-restricted T cells in protective immunity tomycobacteria and potentially other pathogens, although supportive data from animal models is currently limited. In contrast, group 2 CD1 molecules, which include human CD1d and its orthologs, have been predominantly associated with the activation of CD1d-restricted NKT cells, which appear to be more appropriately viewed as a facet of the innate immune system. Whereas the recognition of certain self-lipid ligands by CD1d-restricted NKT cells is well accepted, the importance of these T cells in mediating adaptive immune recognition of specific microbial lipid antigens remains controversial. Despite continuing uncertainty about the role of CD1d-restricted NKT cells in natural infections, studies in mouse models demonstrate the potential of these T cells to exert various effects on a wide spectrum of infectious diseases, most likely by serving as a bridge between innate and adaptive immune responses.