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Preliminary studies of a partial cDNA clone of the Eig17-1 gene from Drosophila melanogaster have shown that it encodes a probable cytochrome P450 of unknown function. To further characterize the Eig17-1 gene product, a full-length cDNA clone was isolated from a late-larval cDNA library and sequenced. Eig17-1 encodes a protein of 538 amino acids. The predicted protein is a cytochrome P450 that has been assigned to a new family, CYP18. The CYP18 protein is most closely related to steroid and xenobiotic metabolizing P450s of family CYP2 (30-33% identity), and to vertebrate steroidogenic P450s of families CYP17 and CYP21 (25-28% identity). Developmental Northern blot analysis revealed five distinct periods of Cyp18 expression during postembryonic development. Each period lasted 12-15 h, and was tightly correlated with reported ecdysteroid pulses in the first, second and third larval instars, at the time of pupariation and in pupae. This pattern of expression is consistent with the known induction of Cyp18 transcription by 20-hydroxyecdysone at the time of pupariation and suggests that ecdysteroids are major regulators of Cyp18 expression throughout postembryonic development. Northern blot analysis of RNA isolated from different prepupal tissues indicates that Cyp18 is differentially expressed in various ecdysteroid-responsive tissues. High Cyp18 expression was observed in body wall and gut while negligible expression was observed in salivary glands and fat body.