FcgammaRIIB is the only inhibitory Fc receptor. It controls many aspects of immune and inflammatory responses, and variation in the gene encoding this protein has long been associated with susceptibility to autoimmune disease, particularly systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). FcgammaRIIB is also involved in the complex regulation of defence against infection. A loss-of-function polymorphism in FcgammaRIIB protects against severe malaria, the investigation of which is beginning to clarify the evolutionary pressures that drive ethnic variation in autoimmunity. Our increased understanding of the function of FcgammaRIIB also has potentially far-reaching therapeutic implications, being involved in the mechanism of action of intravenous immunoglobulin, controlling the efficacy of monoclonal antibody therapy and providing a direct therapeutic target.