A key rate-limiting step in the adaptive immune response at peripheral challenge sites is the transmission of antigen signals to T cells in regional lymph nodes. Recent evidence suggests that specialized dendritic cells (DC) fulfill this surveillance function in the resting state, but their relatively slow turnover in most peripheral tissues brings into question their effectiveness in signaling the arrival of highly pathogenic sources of antigen which require immediate mobilization of the full range of host defenses for maintenance of homeostasis. However, the present report demonstrates that recruitment of a wave of DC into the respiratory tract mucosa is a universal feature of the acute cellular response to local challenge with bacterial, viral, and soluble protein antigens. Consistent with this finding, we also demonstrate that freshly isolated respiratory mucosal DC respond in vitro to a variety of CC chemokines as well as complementary cleavage products and N-formyl-methionyl-leucine-phenylalanine. This suggests that rapid amplification of specific antigen surveillance at peripheral challenge sites is an integral feature of the innate immune response at mucosal surfaces, and serves as an “early warning system” to alert the adaptive immune system to incoming pathogens.