Interaction of mycobacteria with the host leads to retarded expression of T helper cell type 1 (Th1) immunity in the lung. However, the immune mechanisms remain poorly understood. Using in vivo and in vitro models of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tb) infection, we find the immunoadaptor DAP12 (DNAX-activating protein of 12 kDa) in antigen-presenting cells (APCs) to be critically involved in this process. Upon infection of APCs, DAP12 is required for IRAK-M (interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase M) expression, which in turn induces interleukin-10 (IL-10) and an immune-suppressed phenotype of APCs, thus leading to suppressed Th1 cell activation. Lack of DAP12 reduces APC IL-10 production and increases their Th1 cell-activating capability, resulting in expedited Th1 responses and enhanced protection. On the other hand, adoptively transferred DAP12-competent APCs suppress Th1 cell activation within DAP12-deficient hosts, and blockade of IL-10 aborts the ability of DAP12-competent APCs to suppress Th1 activation. Our study identifies the DAP12/IRAK-M/IL-10 to be a novel molecular pathway in APCs exploited by mycobacterial pathogens, allowing infection a foothold in the lung.