PIWI proteins and their bound PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) form the core of a gonad-specific small RNA silencing pathway that protects the animal genome against the deleterious activity of transposable elements. Recent studies linked the piRNA pathway to TUDOR biology as TUDOR domains of various proteins bind symmetrically methylated Arginine residues in PIWI proteins. We systematically analysed the Drosophila TUDOR protein family and identified four previously not characterized TUDOR domain-containing proteins (CG4771, CG14303, CG11133 and CG31755) as essential piRNA pathway factors. We characterized CG4771 (Vreteno) in detail and demonstrate a critical role for this protein in primary piRNA biogenesis. Vreteno physically and/or genetically interacts with the primary pathway components Piwi, Armitage, Yb and Zucchini. Vreteno also interacts with the Tdrd12 orthologues CG11133 (Brother of Yb) and CG31755 (Sister of Yb), which are essential for the primary piRNA pathway in the germline and probably replace the function of the related but soma-specific factor Yb.