Translation is downregulated in response to a variety of moderate stresses, including serum deprivation, hyperosmolarity and ionizing radiation. The cytostatic p21-activated protein kinase 2 (Pak2)/gamma-PAK is activated under the same stress conditions. Expression of wild-type Pak2 in cells and addition of Pak2 to reticulocyte lysate inhibit translation, while kinase-inactive mutants have no effect. Pak2 binds to and phosphorylates initiation factor (eIF)4G, which inhibits association of eIF4E with m7GTP, reducing initiation. The Pak2-binding site maps to the region on eIF4G that contains the eIF4E-binding site; Pak2 and eIF4E compete for binding to this site. Using an eIF4G-depleted reticulocyte lysate, reconstitution with mock-phosphorylated eIF4G fully restores translation, while phosphorylated eIF4G reduces translation to 37%. RNA interference releases Pak2-induced inhibition of translation in contact-inhibited cells by 2.7-fold. eIF4G mutants of the Pak2 site show that S896D inhibits translation, while S896A has no effect. Activation of Pak2 in response to hyperosmotic stress inhibits cap-dependent, but not IRES-driven, initiation. Thus, a novel pathway for mammalian cell stress signaling is identified, wherein activation of Pak2 leads to inhibition of cap-dependent translation through phosphorylation of eIF4G.