Dendritic cells (DC) are vital in the defense against pathogens. To sense pathogens DC express pathogen recognition receptors such as toll-like receptors (TLR) and C-type lectins that recognize different fragments of pathogens, and subsequently activate or present pathogen fragments to T cells. It is now becoming evident that some pathogens subvert DC functions to escape immune surveillance. HIV-1 targets the DC-specific C-type lectin DC-SIGN to hijack DC for viral dissemination. HIV-1 binding to DC-SIGN protects HIV-1 from antigen processing and facilitates its transport to lymphoid tissues, where DC-SIGN promotes HIV-1 infection of T cells. Recent studies demonstrate that DC-SIGN is a more universal pathogen receptor that also recognizes Ebola, cytomegalovirus and mycobacteria. Mycobacterium tuberculosis targets DC-SIGN by a mechanism that is distinct from that of HIV-1, leading to inhibition of the immunostimulatory function of DC and pathogen survival. Thus, a better understanding of DC-SIGN-pathogen interactions and their effects on DC function is necessary to combat infections.