Posterior patterning in Drosophila embryos is governed by nanos (nos), which acts by repressing the translation of maternal transcripts of the hunchback (hb) gene. Sites in hb mRNA that mediate this repression, named nanos response elements (NREs), have been identified. However, we know of no evidence of a direct interaction between nos, or any other protein, and the NRE. Here, we show that two proteins present in embryonic extracts, neither one nos, bind specifically to the NRE in vitro. Furthermore, we show that binding in vitro correlates with NRE function in vivo. One of the NRE-binding factors is encoded by pumilio (pum), a gene that, like nos, is essential for abdominal segmentation. These and other observations suggest that pum acts by recognizing the NRE and then recruiting nos. Presumably, the resulting complex inhibits some component of the translation machinery.