We have characterized dendritic cell (DC)-associated lectin-1 (DCAL-1), a novel, type II, transmembrane, C-type lectin-like protein. DCAL-1 has restricted expression in hemopoietic cells, in particular, DCs and B cells, but T cells and monocytes do not express it. The DCAL-1 locus is within a cluster of C-type lectin-like loci on human chromosome 12p12-13 just 3' to the CD69 locus. The consensus sequence of the DCAL-1 gene was confirmed by RACE-PCR; however, based on sequence alignment with genomic DNA and with various human expressed sequence tags, we predict that DCAL-1 has two splice variants. C-type lectins share a common sequence motif of 14 invariable and 18 highly conserved aa residues known as the carbohydrate recognition domain. DCAL-1, however, is missing three of the cysteine residues required to form the standard carbohydrate recognition domain. DCAL-1 mRNA and protein expression are increased upon the differentiation of monocytes to CD1a(+) DCs. B cells also express high levels of DCAL-1 on their cell surface. Using a DCAL-1 fusion protein we identified a population of CD4(+) CD45RA(+) T cells that express DCAL-1 ligand. Coincubation with soluble DCAL-1 enhanced the proliferation of CD4(+) T cells in response to CD3 ligation and significantly increased IL-4 secretion. In contrast, coincubation with soluble DC-specific ICAM-3-grabbing nonintegrin (CD209) fusion protein as a control had no effect on CD4(+) T cell proliferation or IL-4 and IFN-gamma secretion. Therefore, the function of DCAL-1 on DCs and B cells may act as a T cell costimulatory molecule, which skews CD4(+) T cells toward a Th2 response by enhancing their secretion of IL-4.