The Drosophila genome encodes 18 canonical nuclear receptors. All of the Drosophila nuclear receptors are here shown to be present in the genome of the honey bee (Apis mellifera). Given that the time since divergence of the Drosophila and Apis lineages is measured in hundreds of millions of years, the identification of matched orthologous nuclear receptors in the two genomes reveals the fundamental set of nuclear receptors required to 'make' an endopterygote insect. The single novelty is the presence in the A. mellifera genome of a third insect gene similar to vertebrate photoreceptor-specific nuclear receptor (PNR). Phylogenetic analysis indicates that this novel gene, which we have named AmPNR-like, is a new member of the NR2 subfamily not found in the Drosophila or human genomes. This gene is expressed in the developing compound eye of the honey bee. Like their vertebrate counterparts, arthropod nuclear receptors play key roles in embryonic and postembryonic development. Studies in Drosophila have focused primarily on the role of these transcription factors in embryogenesis and metamorphosis. Examination of an expressed sequence tag library developed from the adult bee brain and analysis of transcript expression in brain using in situ hybridization and quantitative RT-PCR revealed that several members of the nuclear receptor family (AmSVP, AmUSP, AmERR, AmHr46, AmFtz-F1, and AmHnf-4) are expressed in the brain of the adult bee. Further analysis of the expression of AmUSP and AmSVP in the mushroom bodies, the major insect brain centre for learning and memory, revealed changes in transcript abundance and, in the case of AmUSP, changes in transcript localization, during the development of foraging behaviour in the adult. Study of the honey bee therefore provides a model for understanding nuclear receptor function in the adult brain.