In the lung, dendritic cells (DC) are key antigen-presenting cells capable of triggering specific cellular responses to inhaled pathogens, and thus, they may be important in the initiation of an early response to mycobacterial infections. The ability of DC to enhance antigen presentation to naive T cells within the lungs was characterized with respect to Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette Guérin (BCG) vaccination against M. tuberculosis infection. In vitro derived DC were infected with BCG, which induced their maturation, as shown by the increased expression of MHC class II antigens, CD80 and CD86 co-stimulatory molecules. The synthesis of mRNA for IL-1, IL-6, IL-12, IL-10 and IL-1 receptor antagonist was also enhanced. When administered intratracheally in mice, infected DC induced a potent T cell response and the production of IFN-gamma to mycobacterial antigens in the mediastinal lymph nodes, leading to a significant protection against aerosol M. tuberculosis infection. Intriguingly, although the vaccination schedule for BCG-infected DC was much shorter than subcutaneous BCG vaccination (7 days as compared to 100 days), both types of vaccination showed similar levels of protection. These data confirm that DC can be potent inducers of a cellular immune response against mycobacteria and support the concept of combining DC strategies with mycobacterial vaccines for protective immunity against tuberculosis.