The effects of neurotransmitters depend on the receptors expressed on the target cells. In Caenorhabditis elegans, there are two types of GABA receptors that elicit opposite effects: excitatory receptors that open cation-selective channels, and inhibitory receptors that open anion-selective channels. The four non-striated enteric muscle cells required for the expulsion step of the defecation behavior are all sensitive to GABA: the sphincter muscle expresses a classical GABA-sensitive chloride channel (UNC-49) and probably relaxes in response to GABA, while the other three cells express a cation-selective channel (EXP-1) and contract. Here we show that the expression of the exp-1 gene is under the control of dsc-1, which encodes a Paired-like homeodomain protein, a class of transcription factors previously associated with the terminal differentiation of neurons in C. elegans. dsc-1 mutants have anatomically normal enteric muscles but are expulsion defective. We show that this defect is due to the lack of expression of exp-1 in the three cells that contract in response to GABA. In addition, dsc-1, but not exp-1, affects the periodicity of the behavior, revealing an unanticipated role for the enteric muscles in regulating this ultradian rhythm.