Neurogenesis depends on a family of proneural transcriptional activator proteins, but the "proneural" function of these factors is poorly understood, in part because the ensemble of genes they activate, directly or indirectly, has not been identified systematically. We have taken a direct approach to this problem in Drosophila. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting was used to recover a purified population of the cells that comprise the "proneural clusters" from which sensory organ precursors of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) arise. Whole-genome microarray analysis and in situ hybridization was then used to identify and verify a set of genes that are preferentially expressed in proneural cluster cells. Genes in this set encode proteins with a diverse array of implied functions, and loss-of-function analysis of two candidate genes shows that they are indeed required for normal PNS development. Bioinformatic and reporter gene studies further illuminate the cis-regulatory codes that direct expression in proneural clusters.