The neuron-restrictive silencer factor (NRSF) represses transcription of several neuronal genes in nonneuronal cells by binding to a 21-bp element called the neuron-restrictive silencer element (NRSE). We have performed data base searches with a composite NRSE to identify additional candidate NRSF target genes. Twenty-two more genes, 17 of which are expressed mainly in neurons, were found to contain NRSE-like sequences. Many of these putative NRSEs bound NRSF in vitro and repressed transcription in vivo. Most of the neuronal genes identified contribute to the basic structural or functional properties of neurons. However, two neuronal transcription factor genes contain NRSEs, suggesting that NRSF may repress neuronal differentiation both directly and indirectly. Functional NRSEs were also found in several nonneuronal genes, implying that NRSF may play a broader role than originally anticipated.