Interleukin-1 (IL-1) is implicated in numerous pathologies, including multiple sclerosis and its animal model experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). However, the exact mechanism by which IL-1 is involved in the generation of pathogenic T cells and in disease development remains largely unknown. We found that following EAE induction, pertussis toxin administration leads to IL-1 receptor type 1 (IL-1R1)-dependent IL-1beta expression by myeloid cells in the draining lymph nodes. This myeloid-derived IL-1beta did not vitally contribute to the generation and plasticity of Th17 cells, but rather promoted the expansion of a GM-CSF(+) Th17 cell subset, thereby enhancing its encephalitogenic potential. Lack of expansion of GM-CSF-producing Th17 cells led to ameliorated disease in mice deficient for IL-1R1 specifically in T cells. Importantly, pathogenicity of IL-1R1-deficient T cells was fully restored by IL-23 polarization and expansion in vitro Therefore, our data demonstrate that IL-1 functions as a mitogenic mediator of encephalitogenic Th17 cells rather than qualitative inducer of their generation.