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Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 1995 Sep;25(8):881-97.

Insect nuclear receptors: a developmental and comparative perspective.

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Department of Biology, University of North Carolina-Greensboro 27412-5001, USA.


The appearance of puffs on the polytene chromosomes of insect salivary glands incubated with 20-hydroxyecdysone provided the first demonstration that steroids act directly at the gene transcriptional level to bring about subsequent cellular changes (Becker, 1959; Clever and Karlson, 1960). Despite that auspicious beginning, learning about the molecular mechanisms that underlie the hormonal regulation of insect development was impeded for many years by the difficulty associated with isolating and identifying rare regulatory factors from limited tissue sources. The advent of recombinant DNA methodology and powerful techniques such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) along with the recognition that many important endocrine factors are structurally conserved across a wide range of species has, however, all but eliminated the technical obstacles once facing the insect endocrinologist trying to isolate and study these regulatory molecules. This review will discuss recent progress and recall some earlier experiments concerning the molecular basis of hormonal action in insects focusing primarily on the members of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily in Drosophila melanogaster. Two members of this family comprise the functional ecdysteroid receptor and at least a dozen other "orphans" have been identified in Drosophila for which no cognate ligand has yet been found. Many of these orphans are regulated by ecdysteroids. A discussion of juvenile hormone binding proteins that are not family members has been included because of their potential impact on nuclear receptor function. As receptor homologues have been identified in other insects, several general ideas concerning insect hormonal regulation have begun to emerge and these will be examined from a comparative point of view.

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