Dendritic cells (DCs) are specialized APCs with an important role in the initiation and regulation of immune responses. Immature DCs (iDCs) reportedly mediate tolerance in the absence of maturation/inflammatory stimuli, presumably by the induction of regulatory T cells. In this study, we show for the first time that repetitive iDC injections trigger the expansion of a novel regulatory population with high immunomodulatory properties, able to protect mice from collagen-induced arthritis. These regulatory T cells are characterized by the expression of the CD49b molecule and correspond to a CD4+ alpha-galactosylceramide/CD1d-nonrestricted T cell population producing IL-10. Adoptive transfer of < 10(5) TCRbeta+ CD49b+ cells isolated from the liver of iDCs-vaccinated mice, conferred a complete protection against arthritis. This protection was associated with an attenuation of the B and T cell response associated with a local secretion of IL-10. Thus, together these data demonstrate that iDCs can expand and activate a novel regulatory population of CD49b+ T cells, with high immunosuppressive potential able to mediate protection against a systemic autoimmune disease.