Transcription factors that potently induce cell fate often remain expressed in the induced organ throughout life, but their requirements in adults are uncertain and varied. Mechanistically, it is unclear if they activate only tissue-specific genes or also directly repress heterologous genes. We conditionally inactivated mouse Cdx2, a dominant regulator of intestinal development, and mapped its genome occupancy in adult intestinal villi. Although homeotic transformation, observed in Cdx2-null embryos, was absent in mutant adults, gene expression and cell morphology were vitally compromised. Lethality was significantly accelerated in mice lacking both Cdx2 and its homolog Cdx1, with particular exaggeration of defects in villus enterocyte differentiation. Importantly, Cdx2 occupancy correlated with hundreds of transcripts that fell but not with equal numbers that rose with Cdx loss, indicating a predominantly activating role at intestinal cis-regulatory regions. Integrated consideration of a transcription factor's mutant phenotype and cistrome hence reveals the continued and distinct requirement in adults of a critical developmental regulator that activates tissue-specific genes.