Retrotransposon proliferation poses a threat to germline integrity. While retrotransposons must be activated in developing germ cells in order to survive and propagate, how they are selectively activated in the context of meiosis is unclear. We demonstrate that the transcriptional activation of Ty3/Gypsy retrotransposons and host defense are controlled by master meiotic regulators. We show that budding yeast Ty3/Gypsy co-opts binding sites of the essential meiotic transcription factor Ndt80 upstream of the integration site, thereby tightly linking its transcriptional activation to meiotic progression. We also elucidate how yeast cells thwart Ty3/Gypsy proliferation by blocking translation of the retrotransposon mRNA using amyloid-like assemblies of the RNA-binding protein Rim4. In mammals, several inactive Ty3/Gypsy elements are undergoing domestication. We show that mammals utilize equivalent master meiotic regulators (Stra8, Mybl1, Dazl) to regulate Ty3/Gypsy-derived genes in developing gametes. Our findings inform how genes that are evolving from retrotransposons can build upon existing regulatory networks during domestication.