Although mitochondrial dysfunction has been associated with dendritic pathology in many neuronal types, how mitochondrial impairment causes the vulnerability of neuronal subtypes remains unknown. In this issue, Tsuyama et al. (2017. J. Cell Biol. https://doi.org/10.1083/jcb.201604065) identify eIF2α phosphorylation as a critical regulator of mitochondrial dysfunction-mediated selective dendritic loss in Drosophila neurons.