Cellular and humoral immune mechanisms recruited to defend the host from infectious agents depend upon the early immune events triggered by antigen. The cytokine milieu within which the immune response matures is the most important of many factors that govern the nature of the immune response. Natural T cells, whose function is controlled by CD1d molecules, are an early source of cytokines that can bestow type 1 or type 2 differentiative potential upon helper T lymphocytes. This review attempts to illuminate the glycolipid antigen presentation properties of CD1d, how CD1d controls the function of natural T cells and how CD1d and natural T cells interact to jump start the immune system. CD1d is postulated to function as a sensor, sensing alterations in cellular lipid content by virtue of its affinity for such ligands. The presentation of a neo-self glycolipid, presumably by infectious assault of antigen-presenting cells, activates natural T cells, which promptly release pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines and jump-start the immune system.