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Steroid hormones control a wide range of processes, including the development of secondary sex characteristics, reproductive function, and dietary metabolism. Steroid hormones act in conjunction with receptor proteins to regulate the expression of target genes, ensuring that these genes are activated in the right tissues (tissue-specific gene induction) and at the right times (stage-specific gene induction).

The goal of our research is to answer one of the central questions of developmental biology - how can a single hormonal signal elicit different responses at different times and in different tissues during development? The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, provides an ideal model system for unraveling the molecular mechanisms of steroid hormone action in the context of an intact animal. Drosophila undergoes a complete metamorphosis, transitioning from a larva to an adult fly. Metamorphosis is directed by a single steroid hormone called ecdysone.

By examining the molecular mechanisms whereby ecdysone regulates metamorphosis in the fly, we hope to gain a better understanding of how steroid hormones control developmental processes in general. Over the past three decades, our research group’s studies have provided strong evidence in support of the hypothesis that the nuclear receptor ßFTZ-F1 mediates the ecdysone-response of other genes, providing them with the competence to be induced in by the hormone in the correct cells at the appropriate developmental times. In directing the precise timing of target gene induction by ecdysone, ßFTZ-F1 ensures that developmental events occur in the right tissues at the correct time, and in the correct temporal order.

We hope that our studies will provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms of steroid hormone function in Drosophila, and in all animals.


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