Sialic acids are key structural determinants and contribute to the functionality of a number of immune cell receptors. Previously, we demonstrated that differentiation of human dendritic cells (DCs) is accompanied by an increased expression of sialylated cell surface structures, putatively through the activity of the ST3Gal.I and ST6Gal.I sialyltransferases. Furthermore, DC endocytosis was reduced upon removal of the cell surface sialic acid residues by neuraminidase. In the present work, we evaluate the contribution of the sialic acid modifications in DC maturation. We demonstrate that neuraminidase-treated human DCs have increased expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and costimulatory molecules, increased gene expression of specific cytokines and induce a higher proliferative response of T lymphocytes. Together, the data suggest that clearance of cell surface sialic acids contributes to the development of a T helper type 1 proinflammatory response. This postulate is supported by mouse models, where elevated MHC class II and increased maturation of specific DC subsets were observed in DCs harvested from ST3Gal.I(-/-) and ST6Gal.I(-/-) mice. Moreover, important qualitative differences, particularly in the extent of reduced endocytosis and in the peripheral distribution of DC subsets, existed between the ST3Gal.I(-/-) and ST6Gal.I(-/-) strains. Together, the data strongly suggest not only a role of cell surface sialic acid modifications in maturation and functionality of DCs, but also that the sialic acid linkages created by different sialyltransferases are functionally distinct. Consequently, with particular relevance to DC-based therapies, cell surface sialylation, mediated by individual sialyltransferases, can influence the immunogenicity of DCs upon antigen loading.