A novel chemical-induced gene regulatory system for plants consisting of two molecular components is described. The first, or regulatory, cassette comprises a chimeric receptor composed of the hinge and ligand binding domains of the Heliothis virescens ecdysone receptor and the transactivation domain of the Herpes simplex VP16 protein fused to the DNA binding domain and transactivation of a mammalian glucocorticoid receptor. The second component, a reporter cassette, contains six copies of the glucocorticoid response element (GRE) fused to the minimal 35SCaMV promoter and beta-glucuronidase. The system uses a commercially available non-steroidal ecdysone agonist, RH5992 (tebufenozide), as an inducer. Activation of gene expression is shown in both tobacco transient protoplasts and transgenic plants. The response is ligand dependent and is modulated by the change in minimal promoter context. The system is capable of inducing transgene activity up to 420-fold corresponding to 150% of the activity observed with positive controls (35SCaMV:GUS).