Control of target gene specificity during metamorphosis by the steroid response gene E93

Xiaochun Mou, Dianne M. Duncan, Eric H. Baehrecke, Ian Duncan

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56 Scopus citations


Hormonal control of sexual maturation is a common feature in animal development. A particularly dramatic example is the metamorphosis of insects, in which pulses of the steroid hormone ecdysone drive the wholesale transformation of the larva into an adult. The mechanisms responsible for this transformation are not well understood. Work in Drosophila indicates that the larval and adult forms are patterned by the same underlying sets of developmental regulators, but it is not understood how the same regulators pattern two distinct forms. Recent studies indicate that this ability is facilitated by a global change in the responsiveness of target genes during metamorphosis. Here we show that this shift is controlled in part by the ecdysone-induced transcription factor E93. Although long considered a dedicated regulator of larval cell death, we find that E93 is expressed widely in adult cells at the pupal stage and is required for many patterning processes at this time. To understand the role of E93 in adult patterning, we focused on a simple E93-dependent process, the induction of the Dll gene within bract cells of the pupal leg by EGF receptor signaling. In this system, we show that E93 functions to cause Dll to become responsive to EGF receptor signaling. We demonstrate that E93 is both necessary and sufficient for directing this switch. E93 likely controls the responsiveness of many other target genes because it is required broadly for patterning during metamorphosis. The wide conservation of E93 orthologs suggests that similar mechanisms control life-cycle transitions in other organisms, including vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2949-2954
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 21 2012


  • Distal-less
  • Eip93F
  • Epidermal growth factor receptor
  • Heterochrony
  • Ultraspiracle


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