The past ten years have seen an explosion of information concerning host restriction factors that inhibit the replication of HIV-1 and other retroviruses. Among these factors is TRIM5, an innate immune signaling molecule that recognizes the capsid lattice as soon as the retrovirion core is released into the cytoplasm of otherwise susceptible target cells. Recognition of the capsid lattice has several consequences that include multimerization of TRIM5 into a complementary lattice, premature uncoating of the virion core, and activation of TRIM5 E3 ubiquitin ligase activity. Unattached, K63-linked ubiquitin chains are generated that activate the TAK1 kinase complex and downstream inflammatory mediators. Polymorphisms in the capsid recognition domain of TRIM5 explain the observed species-specific differences among orthologues and the relatively weak anti-HIV-1 activity of human TRIM5. Better understanding of the complex interaction between TRIM5 and the retrovirus capsid lattice may someday lead to exploitation of this interaction for the development of potent HIV-1 inhibitors.