Ecdysone receptors: from the Ashburner model to structural biology

Annu Rev Entomol. 2013;58:251-71. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-120811-153610. Epub 2012 Oct 9.


In 1974, Ashburner and colleagues postulated a model to explain the control of the puffing sequence on Drosophila polytene chromosomes initiated by the molting hormone 20-hydroxyecdysone. This model inspired a generation of molecular biologists to clone and characterize elements of the model, thereby providing insights into the control of gene networks by steroids, diatomic gases, and other small molecules. It led to the first cloning of the EcR subunit of the heterodimeric EcR-USP ecdysone receptor. X-ray diffraction studies of the ligand-binding domain of the receptor are elucidating the specificity of receptor-ecdysteroid interactions, the selectivity of some environmentally friendly insecticides, the evolution of the EcR-USP heterodimer, and indeed Ashburner's classical biochemical evidence for the central role of the ecdysone receptor in his model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Ecdysterone / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Steroid / genetics
  • Receptors, Steroid / metabolism*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Insect Proteins
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • ecdysone receptor
  • Ecdysterone