Switching specific patterns of gene repression and activation in response to precise temporal/spatial signals is critical for normal development. Here we report a pathway in which induction of CaMKIIδ triggers an unexpected switch in the function of the HES1 transcription factor from a TLE-dependent repressor to an activator required for neuronal differentiation. These events are based on activation of the poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase1 (PARP-1) sensor component of the groucho/TLE-corepressor complex mediating dismissal of the corepressor complex from HES1-regulated promoters. In parallel, CaMKIIδ mediates a required phosphorylation of HES1 to permit neurogenic gene activation, revealing the ability of a specific signaling pathway to modulate both the derepression and the subsequent coactivator recruitment events required for transcriptional activation of a neurogenic program. The identification of PARP-1 as a regulated promoter-specific exchange factor required for activation of specific neurogenic gene programs is likely to be prototypic of similar molecular mechanisms.