The function of interleukin 15 (IL-15) in unmethylated CpG oligodeoxynucleotide (CpG)-induced immune responses remains unknown. Here, in response to CpG, both wild-type and natural killer cell-depleted mice produced IL-12 and became resistant to a lethal dose of Listeria monocytogenes. In contrast, CpG-treated IL-15-deficient mice produced little IL-12 and succumbed to L. monocytogenes. CpG-stimulated conventional dendritic cells (cDCs) were the main producers of both IL-15 and IL-12, but cDCs did not produce IL-12 in the absence of plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs). The cDC-derived IL-15 induced CD40 expression by cDCs. Interaction between CD40 on cDCs and CD40 ligand on pDCs led to IL-12 production by cDCs. Thus, IL-15-dependent crosstalk between cDCs and pDCs is essential for CpG-induced immune activation.