FTZ-F1, a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily, has been implicated in the activation of the segmentation gene fushi tarazu during early embryogenesis of Drosophila melanogaster. We found that an isoform of FTZ-F1, betaFTZ-F1, is expressed in the nuclei of almost all tissues slightly before the first and second larval ecdysis and before pupation. Severely affected ftz-f1 mutants display an embryonic lethal phenotype, but can be rescued by ectopic expression of betaFTZ-F1 during the period of endogenous betaFTZ-F1 expression in the wild type. The resulting larvae are not able to molt, but this activity is rescued again by forced expression of betaFTZ-F1, allowing progression to the next larval instar stage. On the other hand, premature expression of betaFTZ-F1 in wild-type larvae at mid-first instar or mid-second instar stages causes defects in the molting process. Sensitive periods were found to be around the time of peak ecdysteroid levels and slightly before the start of endogenous betaFTZ-F1 expression. A hypomorphic ftz-f1 mutant that arrests in the prepupal stage can also be rescued by ectopic, time-specific expression of betaFTZ-F1. Failure of salivary gland histolysis, one of the phenotypes of the ftz-f1 mutant, is rescued by forced expression of the ftz-f1 downstream gene BR-C during the late prepupal period. These results suggest that betaFTZ-F1 regulates genes associated with ecdysis and metamorphosis, and that the exact timing of its action in the ecdysone-induced gene cascade is important for proper development.

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