Double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) in the cytoplasm triggers the production of interleukin 1β (IL-1β) as an antiviral host response, and deregulation of the pathways involved can promote inflammatory disease. Here we report a direct cytosolic interaction between the DNA-damage sensor Rad50 and the innate immune system adaptor CARD9. Transfection of dendritic cells with dsDNA or infection of dendritic cells with a DNA virus induced the formation of dsDNA-Rad50-CARD9 signaling complexes for activation of the transcription factor NF-κB and the generation of pro-IL-1β. Primary cells conditionally deficient in Rad50 or lacking CARD9 consequently exhibited defective DNA-induced production of IL-1β, and Card9(-/-) mice had impaired inflammatory responses after infection with a DNA virus in vivo. Our results define a cytosolic DNA-recognition pathway for inflammation and a physical and functional connection between a conserved DNA-damage sensor and the innate immune response to pathogens.