The deleted in azoospermia (DAZ) family genes encode potential RNA-binding proteins that are expressed exclusively in germ cells in a wide range of metazoans. We have previously shown that mutations in daz-1, the only DAZ family gene in Caenorhabditis elegans, cause pachytene stage arrest of female germ cells but do not affect spermatogenesis. In this study, we report that DAZ-1 protein is most abundantly expressed in proliferating female germ cells, in a manner independent of the GLP-1 signaling pathway. DAZ-1 is dispensable in males but it is expressed also in male mitotic germ cells. Detailed phenotypic analyses with fluorescence microscopy and transmission electron microscopy have revealed that loss of daz-1 function causes multiple abnormalities as early as the onset of meiotic prophase, which include aberrant chromatin structure, small nucleoli, absence of the cytoplasmic core, and precocious cellularization. Although the reduced size of nucleoli is indicative of a low translational activity in these cells, artificial repression of general translation in the germline does not phenocopy the daz-1 mutant. Thus, we propose that DAZ-1 in C. elegans plays essential roles in female premeiotic and early meiotic germ cells, probably via regulating the translational activity of specific target genes required for the progression of oogenesis.