We have investigated the role of TGIF, a TALE-class homeodomain transcription factor, in Drosophila development. In vertebrates, TGIF has been implicated, by in vitro analysis, in several pathways, most notably as a repressor modulating the response to TGFbeta signalling. Human TGIF has been associated with the developmental disorder holoprosencephaly. Drosophila TGIF is represented by the products of two tandemly repeated highly similar genes, achintya and vismay. We have generated mutations that delete both genes. Homozygous mutant flies are viable and appear morphologically normal, but the males are completely sterile. The defect lies at the primary spermatocyte stage and differentiation is blocked prior to the onset of the meiotic divisions. We show that mutants lacking TGIF function fail to activate transcription of many genes required for sperm manufacture and of some genes required for entry into the meiotic divisions. This groups TGIF together with two other genes producing similar phenotypes, always early and cookie monster, as components of the machinery required for the activation of the spermatogenic programme of transcription. TGIF is the first sequence-specific transcription factor identified in this pathway. By immunolabelling in mouse testes we show that TGIF is expressed in the early stages of spermatogenesis consistent with a conserved role in the activation of the spermatogenesis transcription programme.