Stress granules (SGs) are large cytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein complexes that are assembled when cells are exposed to stress. SGs promote the survival of stressed cells by contributing to the reprogramming of protein expression as well as by blocking pro-apoptotic signaling cascades. These cytoprotective effects implicated SGs in the resistance of cancer cells to radiation and chemotherapy. We have found that sodium selenite, a selenium compound with chemotherapeutic potential, is a potent inducer of SG assembly. Selenite-induced SGs differ from canonical mammalian SGs in their morphology, composition and mechanism of assembly. Their assembly is induced primarily by eIF4E-binding protein1 (4EBP1)-mediated inhibition of translation initiation, which is reinforced by concurrent phosphorylation of eIF2α. Selenite-induced SGs lack several classical SG components, including proteins that contribute to pro-survival functions of canonical SGs. Our results reveal a new mechanism of mammalian SG assembly and provide insights into how selenite cytotoxicity may be exploited as an anti-neoplastic therapy.