Regulation of protein synthesis is critical for cell growth and maintenance. Ageing in many organisms, including humans, is accompanied by marked alterations in both general and specific protein synthesis. Whether these alterations are simply a corollary of the ageing process or have a causative role in senescent decline remains unclear. An array of protein factors facilitates the tight control of messenger RNA translation initiation. The eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E), which binds the 7-monomethyl guanosine cap at the 5' end of all nuclear mRNAs, is a principal regulator of protein synthesis. Here we show that loss of a specific eIF4E isoform (IFE-2) that functions in somatic tissues reduces global protein synthesis, protects from oxidative stress and extends lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans. Lifespan extension is independent of the forkhead transcription factor DAF-16, which mediates the effects of the insulin-like signalling pathway on ageing. Furthermore, IFE-2 deficiency further extends the lifespan of long-lived age and daf nematode mutants. Similarly, lack of IFE-2 enhances the long-lived phenotype of clk and dietary-restricted eat mutant animals. Knockdown of target of rapamycin (TOR), a phosphatidylinositol kinase-related kinase that controls protein synthesis in response to nutrient cues, further increases the longevity of ife-2 mutants. Thus, signalling via eIF4E in the soma is a newly discovered pathway influencing ageing in C. elegans.