In our attempts to thwart the unwanted attentions of microbes by prophylactic and therapeutic vaccination, the knowledge of interactions at the molecular level may prove to be an invaluable asset. This article examines how particulate delivery systems such as liposomes and polymer microspheres can be applied in the light of recent advances in immunological understanding. Some of the biological interactions of these delivery systems are discussed with relevance for antigen trafficking and molecular pathways of immunogenicity and emphasis on the possible interaction of liposomal components. In particular, traditional concepts such as antigen protection, delivery to antigen presenting cells and depot formation remain important aspects, whilst the inclusion of selected co-adjuvants and enhanced delivery of these moieties in conjunction with antigen now has a firm rationale. © 2006 The Authors.