The MADS-domain transcription factor APETALA1 (AP1) is a key regulator of Arabidopsis flower development. To understand the molecular mechanisms underlying AP1 function, we identified its target genes during floral initiation using a combination of gene expression profiling and genome-wide binding studies. Many of its targets encode transcriptional regulators, including known floral repressors. The latter genes are down-regulated by AP1, suggesting that it initiates floral development by abrogating the inhibitory effects of these genes. While AP1 acts predominantly as a transcriptional repressor during the earliest stages of flower development, regulatory genes known to be required for floral organ formation were found to be activated by AP1 at more advanced stages, indicating a dynamic mode of action. Our results further imply that AP1 orchestrates floral initiation by integrating growth, patterning and hormonal pathways.