BACKGROUND Atopic dermatitis (AD) is an inflammatory, immunologically mediated skin disease characterized by a T helper type 2 cell-predominant phenotype initially with additional acquisition of T helper type 1 cell phenotype during the chronic eczematous phase. Compelling evidence presented here suggests that two types of dendritic cells (DC), myeloid DC (mDC) and plasmacytoid DC (pDC), are important in the pathogenesis of AD. METHODS We reviewed the current literature and summarized key information about the role of mDC and pDC in the pathogenesis of AD. RESULTS Langerhans cells and inflammatory dendritic epidermal cells, which bear the high-affinity receptor for immunoglobulin E on their cell surface, are hypothesized to contribute to the pathogenesis of AD. pDC, Which play an important role in the defence against viral infections, have also been shown to express high-affinity receptor for immunoglobulin E. CONCLUSION Immunoglobulin E receptor-bearing mDC and pDC subtypes in the blood and the skin of patients with AD are of critical immunologic importance in the complex pathophysiologic network of AD. Targeting mDC and pDC subtypes may lead to effective new therapies for the management of AD.