Ecdysone-induced protein 93 (E93), known as the ‘adult-specifier’ transcription factor in insects, triggers metamorphosis in both hemimetabolous and holometabolous insects. Although E93 is conserved in ametabolous insects, its spatiotemporal expression and physiological function remain poorly understood. In this study, we first discover that, in the ametabolous firebrat Thermobia domestica, the previtellogenic ovary exhibits cyclically high E93 expression, and E93 mRNA is broadly distributed in previtellogenic ovarioles. E93 homozygous mutant females of T. domestica exhibit severe fecundity deficiency due to impaired previtellogenic development of the ovarian follicles, likely because E93 induces the expression of genes involved in ECM (extracellular matrix)-receptor interactions during previtellogenesis. Moreover, we reveal that in the hemimetabolous cockroach Blattella germanica, E93 similarly promotes previtellogenic ovarian development. In addition, E93 is also essential for vitellogenesis that is necessary to guarantee ovarian maturation and promotes the vitellogenesis-previtellogenesis switch in the fat body of adult female cockroaches. Our findings deepen the understanding of the roles of E93 in controlling reproduction in insects, and of E93 expression and functional evolution, which are proposed to have made crucial contributions to the origin of insect metamorphosis.

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