Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are innate lymphocytes whose functions are regulated by self and foreign glycolipid antigens presented by the antigen-presenting molecule CD1d. Activation of iNKT cells in vivo results in rapid release of copious amounts of effector cytokines and chemokines with which they regulate innate and adaptive immune responses to pathogens, certain types of cancers and self-antigens. The nature of CD1d-restricted antigens, the manner in which they are recognised and the unique effector functions of iNKT cells suggest an innate immunoregulatory role for this subset of T cells. Their ability to respond fast and our ability to steer iNKT cell cytokine response to altered lipid antigens make them an important target for vaccine design and immunotherapies against autoimmune diseases. This review summarises our current understanding of CD1d-restricted antigen presentation, the recognition of such antigens by an invariant T-cell receptor on iNKT cells, and the functional consequences of these interactions.