Appropriate activation of CD4+ T cells is fundamental for efficient initiation and progression of acquired immune responses. Here, we showed that CD4+ T‐cell activation is dependent on changes in membrane n‐3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and is dynamically regulated by the type of signals provided by dendritic cells (DCs). Upon interaction with DCs primed by different concentrations and species of gut bacteria, CD4+ T cells were activated according to the type of DC stimulus. The levels of CD80 were found to correlate to the levels of expression of CD28 and to the proliferation of CD4+ T cells, while the presence of CD40 and CD86 on DCs inversely affected inducible costimulator (ICOS) and cytotoxic T‐lymphocyte antigen‐4 (CTLA‐4) levels in CD4+ T cells. For all DC stimuli, cells high in n‐3 PUFAs showed reduced ability to respond to CD28 stimulation, to proliferate, and to express ICOS and CTLA‐4. Diminished T‐cell receptor (TCR) and CD28 signalling was found to be responsible for n‐3 PUFA effects. Thus, the dietary fatty acid composition influences the overall level of CD4+ T‐cell activation induced by DCs, while the priming effect of the DC stimuli modulates CD80, CD86 and CD40 levels, thereby affecting and shaping activation of acquired immunity by differential regulation of proliferation and costimulatory molecule expression in CD4+ T cells.