The nuclear receptors (NRs) of metazoans are an ancient family of transcription factors defined by conserved DNA- and ligand-binding domains (DBDs and LBDs, respectively). The Drosophila melanogaster genome project revealed 18 canonical NRs (with DBDs and LBDs both present) and 3 receptors with the DBD only. Annotation of subsequently sequenced insect genomes revealed only minor deviations from this pattern. A renewed focus on functional analysis of the isoforms of insect NRs is therefore required to understand the diverse roles of these transcription factors in embryogenesis, metamorphosis, reproduction, and homeostasis. One insect NR, ecdysone receptor (EcR), functions as a receptor for the ecdysteroid molting hormones of insects. Researchers have developed nonsteroidal ecdysteroid agonists for EcR that disrupt molting and can be used as safe pesticides. An exciting new technology allows EcR to be used in chimeric, ligand-inducible gene-switch systems with applications in pest management and medicine.
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