Simplicity has made C. elegans pharyngeal development a particularly well-studied subject. Nevertheless, here we add the previously uncharacterized homeobox gene F20D12.6/ceh-19 to the set of transcription factor genes involved. GFP reporter assays revealed that ceh-19 is expressed in three pairs of neurons, the pharyngeal pace-maker neurons MC, the amphid neurons ADF and the phasmid neurons PHA. ceh-19(tm452) mutants are viable and fertile, but grow slightly slower, produce less progeny over a prolonged period, and live longer than the wild type. These phenotypes are likely due to the moderately reduced pharyngeal pumping speed arising from the impairment of MC activity. MC neurons are still born in the ceh-19 mutants but display various morphological defects. ceh-19 expression in MC is completely lost in progeny from animals subject to RNAi for pha-4, which encodes an organ-specifying forkhead transcription factor. CEH-19 is required for the activation in MCs of the excitatory FMRFamide-like neuropeptide-encoding gene flp-2. A regulatory pathway from pha-4 through ceh-19 to flp-2 is thereby defined. The resilience of MC identity in the absence of CEH-19 may reflect the buffering qualities of transcription factor regulatory networks. genesis 51:163–178, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.