Death-associated protein kinase (DAPK) is a tumour suppressor. Here we show that DAPK also inhibits T helper 17 (Th17) and prevents Th17-mediated pathology in a mouse model of autoimmunity. We demonstrate that DAPK specifically downregulates hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α). In contrast to the predominant nuclear localization of HIF-1α in many cell types, HIF-1α is located in both the cytoplasm and nucleus in T cells, allowing for a cytosolic DAPK–HIF-1α interaction. DAPK also binds prolyl hydroxylase domain protein 2 (PHD2) and increases HIF-1α-PHD2 association. DAPK thereby promotes the proline hydroxylation and proteasome degradation of HIF-1α. Consequently, DAPK deficiency leads to excess HIF-1α accumulation, enhanced IL-17 expression and exacerbated experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Additional knockout of HIF-1α restores the normal differentiation of Dapk−/− Th17 cells and prevents experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis development. Our results reveal a mechanism involving DAPK-mediated degradation of cytoplasmic HIF-1α, and suggest that raising DAPK levels could be used for treatment of Th17-associated inflammatory diseases.