The Drosophila oocyte contains a cocktail of crucial RNA transcripts that are under complex translational control. Vasa (Vas), a RNA helicase required for germ cell development and posterior body patterning,interacts with the translation initiation factor eIF5B and may help to regulate the translation of specific mRNAs. Johnstone and Lasko(p. 4167) test this by inducing site-directed mutations in Vas that weaken its interaction with eIF5B. They find that the Vas-eIF5B interaction is crucial for germ cell formation and oocyte progression, but is less important for posterior body patterning. It is also essential for the accumulation of Gurken(Grk), which establishes the anteroposterior and dorsoventral polarity of the oocyte. The authors propose that Vas regulates grk translation by alleviating a translational block that targets eIF5B. They also suggest that Vas derepresses the translation of an unidentified mRNA essential for pole cell specification.