During stress, global translation is reduced, but specific transcripts are actively translated. How stress-responsive mRNAs are selectively translated is unknown. We show that METL-5 methylates adenosine 1717 on 18S ribosomal RNA in C. elegans, enhancing selective ribosomal binding and translation of specific mRNAs. One of these mRNAs, CYP-29A3, oxidizes the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid to eicosanoids, key stress signaling molecules. While metl-5-deficient animals grow normally under homeostatic conditions, they are resistant to a variety of stresses. metl-5 mutant worms also show reduced bioactive lipid eicosanoids and dietary supplementation of eicosanoid products of CYP-29A3 restores stress sensitivity of metl-5 mutant worms. Thus, methylation of a specific residue of 18S rRNA by METL-5 selectively enhances translation of cyp-29A3 to increase production of eicosanoids, and blocking this pathway increases stress resistance. This study suggests that ribosome methylation can facilitate selective translation, providing another layer of regulation of the stress response.
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