The Drosophila Broad-Complex plays a key role in controlling ecdysone-regulated gene expression at the onset of metamorphosis

Development. 1993 Jul;118(3):977-88.


During Drosophila third instar larval development, one or more pulses of the steroid hormone ecdysone activate three temporally distinct sets of genes in the salivary glands, represented by puffs in the polytene chromosomes. The intermolt genes are induced first, in mid-third instar larvae; these genes encode a protein glue used by the animal to adhere itself to a solid substrate for metamorphosis. The intermolt genes are repressed at puparium formation as a high titer ecdysone pulse directly induces a small set of early regulatory genes. The early genes both repress their own expression and activate more than 100 late secondary-response genes. The Broad-Complex (BR-C) is an early ecdysone-inducible gene that encodes a family of DNA binding proteins defined by at least three lethal complementation groups: br, rbp, and l(1)2Bc. We have found that the BR-C is critical for the appropriate regulation of all three classes of ecdysone-inducible genes. Both rbp and l(1)2Bc are required for glue gene induction in mid-third instar larvae. In addition, the l(1)2Bc function is required for glue gene repression in prepupae; in l(1)2Bc mutants the glue genes are re-induced by the late prepupal ecdysone pulse, recapitulating a mid-third instar regulatory response at an inappropriate stage in development. The l(1)2Bc function is also required for the complete ecdysone induction of some early mRNAs (E74A, E75A, and BR-C) and efficient repression of most early mRNAs in prepupae. Like the intermolt secondary-response genes, the late secondary-response genes are absolutely dependent on rbp for their induction. An effect of l(1)2Bc mutations on late gene activity can also be detected, but is most likely a secondary consequence of the submaximal ecdysone-induction of a subset of early regulatory products. Our results indicate that the BR-C plays a key role in dictating the stage-specificity of the ecdysone response. In addition, the ecdysone-receptor protein complex alone is not sufficient for appropriate induction of the early primary-response genes, but requires the prior expression of BR-C proteins. These studies define the BR-C as a key regulator of gene activity at the onset of metamorphosis in Drosophila.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Ecdysone / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation* / drug effects
  • Genes, Insect*
  • Genes, Overlapping
  • Glue Proteins, Drosophila / biosynthesis*
  • Glue Proteins, Drosophila / genetics
  • Larva
  • Male
  • Metamorphosis, Biological / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Pupa
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Zinc Fingers / genetics


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Glue Proteins, Drosophila
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Ecdysone