The ecdysone receptor and ultraspiracle regulate the timing and progression of ovarian morphogenesis during Drosophila metamorphosis

Dev Genes Evol. 1998 Aug;208(6):304-17. doi: 10.1007/s004270050186.


Ecdysteroids regulate insect metamorphosis through the edysone receptor complex, a heterodimeric nuclear receptor consisting of the ecdysone receptor (EcR) and its partner ultraspiracle (USP). Differentiation in the Drosophila ovary at metamorphosis correlates with colocalization of USP and the EcR-A isoform in all but one of eight mesoderm-derived somatic cell types. The one exception is the larval terminal filament (TF) cells, in which only USP is detectable during cell differentiation. In cells destined to form the basal stalks and anterior oviduct, USP colocalizes with what appears to be the EcR-B2 isoform. Flies heterozygous for a deletion of the EcR gene exhibit several defects in ovarian morphogenesis, including a heterochronic delay in the onset of terminal filament differentiation. Flies heterozygous for a strong usp allele exhibit accelerated TF differentiation. Flies simultaneously heterozygous for both EcR and usp have additional phenotypes, including several heterochronic shifts, delayed initiation and completion of terminal filament morphogenesis and delayed ovarian differentiation during the first day of metamorphosis. Terminal filament morphogenesis is severely disrupted in homozygous usp clones. Our results demonstrate that proper expression of the ecdysone receptor complex is required to maintain the normal progression and timing of the events of ovarian differentiation in Drosophila. These findings are discussed in the context of a developmental and evolutionary role for the ecdysone receptor complex in regulating the timing of ovarian differentiation in dipteran insects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • Cell Differentiation
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development*
  • Female
  • Heterozygote
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Metamorphosis, Biological*
  • Ovary / cytology
  • Ovary / growth & development*
  • Receptors, Steroid / genetics
  • Receptors, Steroid / metabolism
  • Receptors, Steroid / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Transcription Factors
  • USP protein, Drosophila
  • ecdysone receptor
  • Bromodeoxyuridine