The extent of gene regulation in cell differentiation is poorly understood. We previously used saturation mutagenesis to identify 18 genes that are needed for the development and function of a single type of sensory neuron--the touch receptor neuron for gentle touch in Caenorhabditis elegans. One of these genes, mec-3, encodes a transcription factor that controls touch receptor differentiation. By culturing and isolating wild-type and mec-3 mutant cells from embryos and applying their amplified RNA to DNA microarrays, here we have identified genes that are known to be expressed in touch receptors, a previously uncloned gene (mec-17) that is needed for maintaining touch receptor differentiation, and more than 50 previously unknown mec-3-dependent genes. These genes are randomly distributed in the genome and under-represented both for genes that are co-expressed in operons and for multiple members of gene families. Using regions 5' of the start codon of the first 20 genes, we have also identified an over-represented heptanucleotide, AATGCAT, that is needed for the expression of touch receptor genes.