Drosophila imaginal discs undergo extensive pattern formation during larval development, resulting in each cell acquiring a specific adult fate. The final manifestation of this pattern into adult structures is dependent on pulses of the steroid hormone ecdysone during metamorphosis, which trigger disc eversion, elongation and differentiation. We have defined genetic criteria that allow us to screen for ecdysone-inducible regulatory genes that are required for this transformation from patterned disc to adult structure. We describe here the first genetic locus isolated using these criteria: crooked legs (crol). crol mutants die during pupal development with defects in adult head eversion and leg morphogenesis. The crol gene is induced by ecdysone during the onset of metamorphosis and encodes at least three protein isoforms that contain 12–18 C2H2 zinc fingers. Consistent with this sequence motif, crol mutations have stage-specific effects on ecdysone-regulated gene expression. The EcR ecdysone receptor, and the BR-C, E74 and E75 early regulatory genes, are submaximally induced in crol mutants in response to the prepupal ecdysone pulse. These changes in gene activity are consistent with the crol lethal phenotypes and provide a basis for understanding the molecular mechanisms of crol action. The genetic criteria described here provide a new direction for identifying regulators of adult tissue development during insect metamorphosis.

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