Abstract The recombinant membrane-associated proteins of Coxiella burnetii, Com1, Mip and GroEL, were used in vitro to stimulate BALB/c mouse bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs). The antigen-activated BMDCs were transferred into naïve BALB/c mice. Seven days after challenge of C. burnetii, the bacterial loads of mice receiving BMDCs activated with Com1 or Mip, but not GroEL, were significantly lower than that of mice receiving BMDCs pulsed with TrxA (Esherichia coli thioredoxin) in a quantitative polymerase chain reaction assay. After in vitro interaction with cognate antigen-pulsed BMDCs, the percentages of CD69-positive cells and TNF-α-positive cells in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells isolated from the spleens of mice receiving Com1-, Mip-, or GroEL-pulsed BMDCs were significantly higher than that of mice receiving mock-pulsed BMDCs in flow cytometric analysis. The percentages of IFN-γ-positive cells in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from mice receiving Com1- or Mip-pulsed BMDCs were significantly greater than that of mice receiving GroEL-pulsed BMDCs. However, the percentage of IL-4-positive cells in CD4+ T cells of mice receiving GroEL-pulsed BMDCs was obviously higher than that of mice receiving Com1- or Mip-pulsed BMDCs. Our results demonstrate that Com1 and Mip are protective antigens and strongly indicate that they favor to induce IFN-γ-producing Th1 and Tc1 cells, whereas the non-protective antigen GroEL is biased to induce a Th2 response. Therefore, Com1 and Mip are key antigens to induce a protective immune response against C. burnetii infection.