Cysteine hydropersulfide (CysSSH) occurs in abundant quantities in various organisms, yet little is known about its biosynthesis and physiological functions. Extensive persulfide formation is apparent in cysteine-containing proteins in Escherichia coli and mammalian cells and is believed to result from post-translational processes involving hydrogen sulfide-related chemistry. Here we demonstrate effective CysSSH synthesis from the substrate l-cysteine, a reaction catalyzed by prokaryotic and mammalian cysteinyl-tRNA synthetases (CARSs). Targeted disruption of the genes encoding mitochondrial CARSs in mice and human cells shows that CARSs have a crucial role in endogenous CysSSH production and suggests that these enzymes serve as the principal cysteine persulfide synthases in vivo. CARSs also catalyze co-translational cysteine polysulfidation and are involved in the regulation of mitochondrial biogenesis and bioenergetics. Investigating CARS-dependent persulfide production may thus clarify aberrant redox signaling in physiological and pathophysiological conditions, and suggest therapeutic targets based on oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction.