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Cell. 2003 Jun 13;113(6):731-42.

The Drosophila orphan nuclear receptor DHR38 mediates an atypical ecdysteroid signaling pathway.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Pharmacology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.


Ecdysteroid pulses trigger the major developmental transitions during the Drosophila life cycle. These hormonal responses are thought to be mediated by the ecdysteroid receptor (EcR) and its heterodimeric partner Ultraspiracle (USP). We provide evidence for a second ecdysteroid signaling pathway mediated by DHR38, the Drosophila ortholog of the mammalian NGFI-B subfamily of orphan nuclear receptors. DHR38 also heterodimerizes with USP, and this complex responds to a distinct class of ecdysteroids in a manner that is independent of EcR. This response is unusual in that it does not involve direct binding of ecdysteroids to either DHR38 or USP. X-ray crystallographic analysis of DHR38 reveals the absence of both a classic ligand binding pocket and coactivator binding site, features that seem to be common to all NGFI-B subfamily members. Taken together, these data reveal the existence of a separate structural class of nuclear receptors that is conserved from fly to humans.

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