Dendritic cells (DC) are known to support the activation of natural killer (NK) cells. However, little is known about the role for DC in NK-cell homeostasis. In order to investigate this question, a novel bacterial artificial chromosome transgenic mouse model was generated in which the diphtheria toxin receptor is expressed under the CD11c promoter. In these mice efficient DC depletion can be achieved over prolonged periods of time by multiple injections of diphtheria toxin. We show here that NK cells require DC for full acquisition of effector function in vivo in response to the bacterial-derived TLR ligand CpG. Importantly, DC were found to play an instrumental role for maintaining normal homeostasis of NK cells. This is achieved by IL-15 production by DC, which supports the homeostatic proliferation of NK cells.