Organisms respond to mitochondrial stress by activating multiple defense pathways including the mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt). However, how different layers of UPRmt regulators are orchestrated to transcriptionally activate the stress responses remains largely unknown. Here we identified CBP-1, the worm ortholog of the mammalian acetyltransferases CBP/p300, as an essential regulator for UPRmt activation, as well as for mitochondrial stress-induced immune response, reduction of amyloid-β aggregation and lifespan extension in Caenorhabditis elegans. Mechanistically, CBP-1 acts downstream of histone demethylases, JMJD-1.2/JMJD-3.1, and upstream of UPRmt transcription factors including ATFS-1, to systematically induce a broad spectrum of UPRmt genes and execute multiple beneficial functions. In mouse and human populations, transcript levels of CBP/p300 positively correlate with UPRmt transcripts and longevity. Furthermore, CBP/p300 inhibition disrupts, while forced expression of p300 is sufficient to activate, the UPRmt in mammalian cells. These results highlight an evolutionarily conserved mechanism that determines mitochondrial stress response, and promotes health and longevity through CBP/p300.