Diesel exhaust and its particles (DEP) have been under scrutiny for health effects in humans. In the development of these effects inflammation is regarded as a key process. Overall, in vitro studies report similar DEP-induced changes in markers of inflammation, including cytokines and chemokines, as studies in vivo. In vitro studies suggest that soluble extracts of DEP have the greatest impact on the expression and release of proinflammatory markers. Main DEP mediators of effects have still not been identified and are difficult to find, as fuel and engine technology developments lead to continuously altered characteristics of emissions. Involved mechanisms remain somewhat unclear. DEP extracts appear to comprise components that are able to activate various membrane and cytosolic receptors. Through interactions with receptors, ion channels, and phosphorylation enzymes, molecules in the particle extract will trigger various cell signaling pathways that may lead to the release of inflammatory markers directly or indirectly by causing cell death. In vitro studies represent a fast and convenient system which may have implications for technology development. Furthermore, knowledge regarding how particles elicit their effects may contribute to understanding of DEP-induced health effects in vivo, with possible implications for identifying susceptible groups of people and effect biomarkers.