Translation arrest is a part of the cellular stress response that decreases energy consumption and enables rapid reprioritisation of gene expression. Often translation arrest leads to condensation of untranslated messenger ribonucleoproteins (mRNPs) into stress granules (SGs). Studies into mechanisms of SG formation and functions are complicated because various types of stress cause formation of SGs with different properties and composition. In this work, we focused on the mechanism of SG formation triggered by UV damage. We demonstrate that UV-induced inhibition of translation does not involve inhibition of the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling or dissociation of the 48S preinitiation complexes. The general control non-derepressible 2 (GCN2; also known as EIF2AK4) kinase contributes to UV-induced SG formation, which is independent of the phosphorylation of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α. Like many other types of SGs, condensation of UV-induced granules requires the Ras-GTPase-activating protein SH3-domain-binding protein 1 (G3BP1). Our work reveals that, in UV-treated cells, the mechanisms of translation arrest and SG formation may be unlinked, resulting in SGs that do not contain the major type of polysome-free preinitiation complexes that accumulate in the cytoplasm.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper. © 2020. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.