Signaling pathways and small RNAs direct diverse cellular events, but few examples are known of defined signaling pathways directly regulating small RNA biogenesis. We show that ERK phosphorylates Dicer on two conserved residues in its RNase IIIb and double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-binding domains and that phosphorylation of these residues is necessary and sufficient to trigger Dicer's nuclear translocation in worms, mice, and human cells. Phosphorylation of Dicer on either site inhibits Dicer function in the female germline and dampens small RNA repertoire. Our data demonstrate that ERK phosphorylates and inhibits Dicer during meiosis I for oogenesis to proceed normally in Caenorhabditis elegans and that this inhibition is released before fertilization for embryogenesis to proceed normally. The conserved Dicer residues, their phosphorylation by ERK, and the consequences of the resulting modifications implicate an ERK-Dicer nexus as a fundamental component of the oocyte-to-embryo transition and an underlying mechanism coupling extracellular cues to small RNA production.