T-cell activation results from engagement of the T-cell receptor (TCR) by cognate peptide–major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) complexes on the surface of antigen-presenting cells (APC). Previous studies have provided evidence supporting the notion that the half-life of the TCR/pMHC interaction and the density of pMHC on the APC are two parameters that can influence T-cell activation. However, whether the half-life of the TCR/pMHC interaction can modulate T-cell activation in response to a pathogen challenge remains unknown. To approach this question, we generated strains of bacteria expressing variants of the ovalbumin (OVA) antigen, carrying point mutations in the SIINFEKL sequence. When bound to H-2Kb, this peptide is the cognate ligand for the OT-I TCR. Variants of the H-2Kb/SIINFEKL bind to the OT-I TCR with distinct half-lives. Here we show that dendritic cells (DCs) infected with bacteria expressing OVA variants were incapable of activating OT-I T cells when the half-life of the TCR/H-2Kb/OVA interaction was excessively short. Consistent with these data, T-cell activation was only observed in mice infected with bacteria expressing OVA variants that bound to OT-I with a half-life above a certain threshold. Considered together, our data suggest that the half-life of TCR/pMHC interaction can significantly modulate T-cell activation in vivo, as well as influence recognition of antigens expressed by bacteria. These observations underscore the importance of the TCR/pMHC half-life on the clearance of pathogens.