Although infectious, inflammatory and neoplastic diseases frequently involve the pleural space and walls, little is known about the immunological and molecular mechanisms underlying pleural disorders. This article provides an overview of recent insights into immunobiological processes likely to play a role in the pathogenesis of pleural disorders. Pleural involvement in certain diseases is associated with the infiltration of a number of different types of immune cells, such as neutrophils, eosinophils or lymphocytes, in various proportions depending on both the course and the aetiology of the underlying disease. In addition to infiltrating cells, mesothelial cells have been demonstrated to actively participate in pleural inflammation via release of various mediators and proteins, including platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), interleukin-8, monocyte chemotactic peptide (MCP-1), nitric oxide (NO), collagen, antioxidant enzymes and the plasminogen activation inhibitor (PAI). Furthermore, several inflammatory mediators have been detected at increased concentrations within pleural effusions, including lipid mediators, cytokines and proteins (adenosine deaminase, lysosyme, eosinophil-derived cationic proteins, and products of the coagulation cascade). The presence of these mediators underline the concept of pleural inflammation, and certain cytokines seem to characterize a specific aetiology of pleurisy. The understanding of these processes and the sequence of events leading to pleural loculation, pleural adhesion or repair are likely to provide the basis for early therapeutic intervention and reduce pleural-associated morbidity.