Dendritic cells (DCs) are key activators of cellular immune responses through their capacity to induce naïve T cells and sustained effector T cell responses. This capacity is a function of their superior efficiency of antigen presentation via MHC class I and class II molecules, and the expression of co-stimulatory cell surface molecules and cytokines. Maturation of DCs is induced by microbial factors via pattern recognition receptors such as Toll-like receptors, pro-inflammatory cytokines or cognate interaction with CD4+T cells. Here we show that, unexpectedly, the PanDR helper T cell epitope PADRE, a generic T helper cell antigen presented by a large fraction of HLA-DR alleles, when delivered in particle-bound form induced maturation of human DCs. The DCs that received the particle-bound PADRE displayed all features of fully mature DCs, such as high expression of the co-stimulatory molecules CD80, CD86, CD83, the MHC-II molecule HLA-DR, secretion of high levels of the biologically active IL-12 (IL-12p70) and induction of vigorous proliferation of naïve CD4+T cells. Furthermore, the maturation of DCs induced by particle-bound PADRE was shown to involve sphingosine kinase, calcium signaling from internal sources and downstream signaling through the MAP kinase and the p72syk pathways, and finally activation of the transcription factor NF-κB. Based on our findings, we propose that particle-bound PADRE may be used as a DC activator in DC-based vaccines.