Pulses of the steroid hormone ecdysone activate genetic regulatory hierarchies that coordinate the developmental changes associated with Drosophila metamorphosis. A high-titer ecdysone pulse at the end of larval development triggers puparium formation and induces expression of the DHR3 orphan nuclear receptor. Here we use both a heat-inducible DHR3 rescue construct and clonal analysis to define DHR3 functions during metamorphosis. Clonal analysis reveals requirements for DHR3 in the development of adult bristles, wings, and cuticle, and no apparent function in eye or leg development. DHR3 mutants rescued to the third larval instar also reveal essential functions during the onset of metamorphosis, leading to lethality during prepupal and early pupal stages. The phenotypes associated with these lethal phases are consistent with the effects of DHR3 mutations on ecdysone-regulated gene expression. Although DHR3 has been shown to be sufficient for early gene repression at puparium formation, it is not necessary for this response, indicating that other negative regulators may contribute to this pathway. In contrast, DHR3 is required for maximal expression of the midprepupal regulatory genes, EcR, E74B, and betaFTZ-1. Reductions in EcR and betaFTZ-F1 expression, in turn, lead to submaximal early gene induction in response to the prepupal ecdysone pulse and corresponding defects in adult head eversion and salivary gland cell death. These studies demonstrate that DHR3 is an essential regulator of the betaFTZ-F1 midprepupal competence factor, providing a functional link between the late larval and prepupal responses to ecdysone. Induction of DHR3 in early prepupae ensures that responses to the prepupal ecdysone pulse will be distinct from responses to the late larval pulse and thus that the animal progresses in an appropriate manner through the early stages of metamorphosis.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.