The spatial and temporal control of gene expression during the development of multicellular organisms is regulated to a large degree by cell-cell signaling. We have uncovered a simple mechanism through which Dpp, a TGFbeta/BMP superfamily member in Drosophila, represses many key developmental genes in different tissues. A short DNA sequence, a Dpp-dependent silencer element, is sufficient to confer repression of gene transcription upon Dpp receptor activation and nuclear translocation of Mad and Medea. Transcriptional repression does not require the cooperative action of cell type-specific transcription factors but relies solely on the capacity of the silencer element to interact with Mad and Medea and to subsequently recruit the zinc finger-containing repressor protein Schnurri. Our findings demonstrate how the Dpp pathway can repress key targets in a simple and tissue-unrestricted manner in vivo and hence provide a paradigm for the inherent capacity of a signaling system to repress transcription upon pathway activation.