Prolonged cellular hypoxia results in energy failure and ultimately cell death. However, less-severe hypoxia can induce a cytoprotective response termed hypoxic preconditioning (HP). The unfolded protein response pathway (UPR) has been known for some time to respond to hypoxia and regulate hypoxic sensitivity; however, the role of the UPR, if any, in HP essentially has been unexplored. We have shown previously that a sublethal hypoxic exposure of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans induces a protein chaperone component of the UPR (L. L. Anderson, X. Mao, B. A. Scott, and C. M. Crowder, Science 323:630-633, 2009). Here, we show that HP induces the UPR and that the pharmacological induction of misfolded proteins is itself sufficient to stimulate a delayed protective response to hypoxic injury that requires the UPR pathway proteins IRE-1, XBP-1, and ATF-6. HP also required IRE-1 but not XBP-1 or ATF-6; instead, GCN-2, which is known to suppress translation and induce an adaptive transcriptional response under conditions of UPR activation or amino acid deprivation, was required for HP. The phosphorylation of the translation factor eIF2α, an established mechanism of GCN-2-mediated translational suppression, was not necessary for HP. These data suggest a model where hypoxia-induced misfolded proteins trigger the activation of IRE-1, which along with GCN-2 controls an adaptive response that is essential to HP.