Drosophila sperm development is characterized by extensive post-transcriptional regulation whereby thousands of transcripts are preserved for translation during later stages. A key step in translation initiation is the binding of eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) to the 5′ mRNA cap. In addition to canonical eIF4E-1, Drosophila has multiple eIF4E paralogs, including four (eIF4E-3, -4, -5, and -7) that are highly expressed in the testis. Among these, only eIF4E-3 has been characterized genetically. Here, using CRISPR/Cas9 mutagenesis, we determined that eIF4E-5 is essential for male fertility. eIF4E-5 protein localizes to the distal ends of elongated spermatid cysts, and eIF4E-5 mutants exhibit defects during post-meiotic stages, including a mild defect in spermatid cyst polarization. eIF4E-5 mutants also have a fully penetrant defect in individualization, resulting in failure to produce mature sperm. Indeed, our data indicate that eIF4E-5 regulates non-apoptotic caspase activity during individualization by promoting local accumulation of the E3 ubiquitin ligase inhibitor Soti. Our results further extend the diversity of non-canonical eIF4Es that carry out distinct spatiotemporal roles during spermatogenesis.

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