Background Following fertilization, the early proteomes of metazoans are defined by the translation of stored but repressed transcripts; further embryonic development relies on de novo transcription of the zygotic genome. During sexual development of Plasmodium berghei, a rodent model for human malaria species including P. falciparum, the stability of repressed mRNAs requires the translational repressors DOZI and CITH. When these repressors are absent, Plasmodium zygote development and transmission to the mosquito vector is halted, as hundreds of transcripts become destabilized. However, which mRNAs are direct targets of these RNA binding proteins, and thus subject to translational repression, is unknown. Results We identify the maternal mRNA contribution to post-fertilization development of P. berghei using RNA immunoprecipitation and microarray analysis. We find that 731 mRNAs, approximately 50% of the transcriptome, are associated with DOZI and CITH, allowing zygote development to proceed in the absence of RNA polymerase II transcription. Using GFP-tagging, we validate the repression phenotype of selected genes and identify mRNAs relying on the 5′ untranslated region for translational control. Gene deletion reveals a novel protein located in the ookinete crystalloid with an essential function for sporozoite development. Conclusions Our study details for the first time the P. berghei maternal repressome. This mRNA population provides the developing ookinete with coding potential for key molecules required for life-cycle progression, and that are likely to be critical for the transmission of the malaria parasite from the rodent and the human host to the mosquito vector.