In the control of T-helper type I (Th-1) polarization, dendritic cells (DCs) must interpret a complex array of stimuli, many of which are poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that Th-1 polarization is heavily influenced by DC-autonomous phenomena triggered by the loading of DCs with antigenically matched major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and class II determinants, that is, class I and II peptide epitopes exhibiting significant amino acid sequence overlap (such as would be physiologically present during infectious processes requiring Th-1 immunity for clearance). Data were derived from 13 independent antigenic models including whole-cell systems, single-protein systems, and 3 different pairs of overlapping class I and II binding epitopes. Once loaded with matched class I and II antigens, these "Th-1 DCs" exhibited differential cytokine secretion and surface marker expression, a distinct transcriptional signature, and acquired the ability to enhance generation of CD8(+) T lymphocytes. Mechanistically, tRNA-synthetases were implicated as components of a putative sensor complex involved in the comparison of class I and II epitopes. These data provide rigorous conceptual explanations for the process of Th-1 polarization and the antigenic specificity of cognate T-cell help, enhance the understanding of Th-1 responses, and should contribute to the formulation of more effective vaccination strategies.