Critical weight (CW) attainment is a key life event in the development of holometabolous insects including Drosophila melanogaster. It indicates that sufficient growth has occurred to initiate the juvenile-to-adult transition. The prothoracic gland (PG), the major insect larval endocrine organ, is a polyploid tissue that plays a key role in the determination of CW via release of the steroid hormone ecdysone. Here we show that when the cells of the PG fail to make the mitotic-to-endocycle switch, but instead remain mitotic, the result is more but smaller cells. Nevertheless, they reach the same CW and produce healthy adults after only a moderate developmental delay. We propose that the CW checkpoint can be reached by either an endocycling or mitotic PG and may simply reflect the attainment of sufficient ecdysone biosynthetic capacity to initiate metamorphosis.
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