Germ cells have the unique capacity to start a new life upon fertilization. They are generated during a sex-specific differentiation programme called gametogenesis. Maturation of germ cells is characterized by an impressive degree of cellular restructuring and gene regulation that involves remarkable genomic reorganization. These events are finely tuned, but are also susceptible to the introduction of various types of error. Because stable genetic transmission to future generations is essential for life, understanding the control of these processes has far-reaching implications for human health and reproduction.