Defects in number and function of dendritic cells (DCs) have been observed during HIV-1 infection, so therapeutic HIV-1 vaccine approaches that target or activate DCs may improve vaccine immunogenicity. To determine the potential of recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast as an HIV-1 vaccine, we investigated interactions between yeast and human DCs. Yeast induced direct phenotypic maturation of monocyte-derived DCs (MDDCs) and enriched blood myeloid DCs (mDCs), but only indirectly matured blood plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs). Yeast-pulsed MDDCs and blood mDCs produced inflammatory cytokines and stimulated strong allo-reactive T cell proliferation. Both blood DC subsets internalized yeast, and when pulsed with yeast recombinant for HIV-1 Gag protein, both stimulated in vitro expansion of Gag-specific CD8+ memory T cells. These results suggest that S. cerevisiae yeast have potent adjuvant effects on human DCs. Furthermore, recombinant yeast-derived antigens are processed by human blood DCs for MHC class-I cross-presentation. These DC-targeting characteristics of yeast suggest that it may be an effective vaccine vector for induction of HIV-1-specific cellular immune responses.