The spermatogenic and oogenic lineages originate from bipotential primordial germ cells in response to signalling in the foetal testis or ovary, respectively. The signals required for male germ cell commitment and their entry into mitotic arrest remain largely unknown. Recent data show that the ligand GDNF is up regulated in the foetal testis indicating that it may be involved in male germ cell development. In this study genetic analysis of GDNF-RET signalling shows that RET is required for germ cell survival. Affected germ cells in Ret-/- mice lose expression of key germ cell markers, abnormally express cell cycle markers and undergo apoptosis. Surprisingly, a similar phenotype was not detected in Gdnf-/- mice indicating that either redundancy with a Gdnf related gene might compensate for its loss, or that RET operates in a GDNF independent manner in mouse foetal germ cells. Either way, this study identifies the proto-oncogene RET as a novel component of the foetal male germ cell development pathway.