RNA-binding proteins play an important role in the regulation of gene expression by modulating translation and localization of specific messenger RNAs (mRNAs) during early development and gametogenesis. The DAZ (Deleted in Azoospermia) family of proteins, which includes DAZ, DAZL, and BOULE, are germ cell-specific RNA-binding proteins that are implicated in translational regulation of several transcripts. Of particular importance is DAZL, which is present in vertebrates and arose from the duplication of the ancestral BOULE during evolution. Identification of DAZL target mRNAs and characterization of the RNA-binding sequence through in vitro binding assays and crystallographic studies revealed that DAZL binds to GUU triplets in the 3′ untranslated region of target mRNAs. Although there is compelling evidence for the role of DAZL in translation stimulation of target mRNAs, recent studies indicate that DAZL can also function in translational repression and transport of specific mRNAs. Furthermore, apart from the well-characterized function of DAZL in gametogenesis, recent data suggest its role in early embryonic development and differentiation of pluripotent stem cells toward functional gametes. In light of the mounting evidence for the role of DAZL in various cellular and developmental processes, we summarize the currently characterized biological functions of DAZL in RNA biology and development. WIREs RNA 2014, 5:527–535. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1228

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Conflict of interest: The authors declare no potential conflict of interest.