Proneural transcription factors drive the generation of specialized neurons during nervous system development, and their dynamic expression pattern is critical to their function. The activation of the proneural gene atonal (ato) in the Drosophila eye disc epithelium represents a critical step in the transition from retinal progenitor cell to developing photoreceptor neuron. We show here that the onset of ato transcription depends on two distant enhancers that function differently in subsets of retinal progenitor cells. A detailed analysis of the crosstalk between these enhancers identifies a critical role for three binding sites for the Retinal Determination factors Eyeless (Ey) and Sine oculis (So). We show how these sites interact to induce ato expression in distinct regions of the eye field and confirm them to be occupied by endogenous Ey and So proteins in vivo. Our study suggests that Ey and So operate differently through the same 3' cis-regulatory sites in distinct populations of retinal progenitors.