The steroid hormone ecdysone initiates molting and metamorphosis in Drosophila via a heterodimeric receptor consisting of EcR that binds hormone, and USP, a homolog of the vertebrate RXR receptor. EcR exists in three isoforms EcRA, EcRB1 and EcRB2 that are thought to direct specific physiological responses to ecdysone. These three isoforms differ only in their N-terminal A/B domain that implies that sequences responsible for the differential physiological effects lie within the A/B domains of the EcR isoforms. In the present study, we set out to determine the capability of the three isoforms and their A/B domains to control gene transcription. When full-length EcR plasmids were cotransfected into mammalian cells with a USP expressing and a cognate reporter plasmid, the three EcR isoforms showed striking differences in their ability to control gene transcription, both in the presence and in the absence of hormone. Furthermore, the A/B domains of EcRB1 and of EcRB2 when fused to the GAL4 DNA binding domain are sufficient to activate transcription of a reporter gene, in yeast as well as in mammalian cells. In contrast, a fusion construct containing the A/B domain of EcRA represses basal transcription of the reporter gene. All these findings emphasize the importance of the A/B domains of the three EcR isoforms for differentially controlling gene transcription. Furthermore, they provide evidence for the existence of an autonomous ligand-independent activation function (AF1) in the A/B domains of EcRB1 and EcRB2 and of an inhibitory function (IF) in the A/B domain of EcRA.