Meningococcal lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is of crucial importance for the pathogenesis of invasive infection. We show that sialylation and elongation of the alpha-chain effectively shields viable unencapsulated Neisseria meningitidis from recognition by human dendritic cells (DC). In contrast, beta- and gamma- chain of the LPS carbohydrate moiety play only a minor role in the interaction with DC. The protective function of the LPS for the bacteria can be counteracted in vivo by phase variation of the lgtA gene encoding LPS glycosyltransferase A. Capsule expression protects N. meningitidis efficiently from recognition and phagocytosis by DC independent of the LPS structure. Despite the significant impact of LPS composition on the adhesion and phagocytosis of N. meningitidis no differences were found in terms of cytokine levels secreted by DC for IL1-beta, IL-6, IL-8, TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma and GM-CSF. However, significantly lower levels of the regulatory mediator IL-10 were induced by encapsulated strains in comparison to isogenic unencapsulated derivatives. IL-10 secretion was shown to depend on phagocytosis because poly alpha-2,8 sialic acid did not influence IL-10 secretion. The use of truncated LPS isoforms in vaccine preparations can therefore not only result in attenuation but also in more efficient targeting of DC.