Invariant natural killer T cells (iNKT cells) play a prominent role during infection and other inflammatory processes, and these cells can be activated through their T cell receptors by microbial lipid antigens. However, increasing evidence shows that they are also activated in situations where no foreign lipid antigens are present, suggesting a role for lipid self-antigen. We now demonstrate that an abundant endogenous lipid, β-D-glucopyranosylceramide (β-GlcCer), is a potent iNKT cell self-antigen in mouse and human, and that its activity depends on N-acyl chain composition. Furthermore, β-GlcCer accumulates during infection and in response to Toll-like receptor agonists, contributing to iNKT cell activation. Thus, we propose that recognition of β-GlcCer by the invariant TCR translates innate danger signals into iNKT cell activation.