During mammalian pituitary gland development, distinct cell types emerge from a common primordium. Appearance of specific cell types occurs in response to opposing signaling gradients that emanate from distinct organizing centers. These signals induce expression of interacting transcriptional regulators, including DNA binding-dependent activators and DNA binding-independent transrepressors, in temporally and spatially overlapping patterns. Together they synergistically regulate precursor proliferation and induction of distinct cell types. Terminal cell type differentiation requires selective gene activation strategies and long-term active repression, mediated by cell type-specific and promoter-specific recruitment of coregulatory complexes. These mechanisms imply the potential for flexibility in the ultimate identity of differentiated cell types.