Polycomb group proteins form two main complexes, PRC2 and PRC1, which generally coregulate their target genes. Here we show that PRC1 components act as neoplastic tumor suppressors independently of PRC2 function. By mapping the distribution of PRC1 components and trimethylation of histone H3 at Lys27 (H3K27me3) across the genome, we identify a large set of genes that acquire PRC1 in the absence of H3K27me3 in Drosophila larval tissues. These genes massively outnumber canonical targets and are mainly involved in the regulation of cell proliferation, signaling and polarity. Alterations in PRC1 components specifically deregulate this set of genes, whereas canonical targets are derepressed in both PRC1 and PRC2 mutants. In human embryonic stem cells, PRC1 components colocalize with H3K27me3 as in Drosophila embryos, whereas in differentiated cell types they are selectively recruited to a large set of proliferation and signaling-associated genes that lack H3K27me3, suggesting that the redeployment of PRC1 components during development is evolutionarily conserved.