A critical determinant of insect body size is the time at which the larva stops feeding and initiates wandering in preparation for metamorphosis. No genes have been identified that regulate growth by contributing to this key developmental decision to terminate feeding. We show here that mutations in the DHR4 orphan nuclear receptor result in larvae that precociously leave the food to form premature prepupae, resulting in abbreviated larval development that translates directly into smaller and lighter animals. In addition, we show that DHR4 plays a central role in the genetic cascades triggered by the steroid hormone ecdysone at the onset of metamorphosis, acting as both a repressor of the early ecdysone-induced regulatory genes and an inducer of the betaFTZ-F1 midprepupal competence factor. We propose that DHR4 coordinates growth and maturation in Drosophila by mediating endocrine responses to the attainment of critical weight during larval development.