DHR38 is the only Drosophila member of the NR4A subclass of vertebrate nuclear receptors, which have been implicated in multiple biological pathways, including neuronal function, apoptosis, and metabolism. Although an earlier study identified three point mutations in DHR38, none of these were shown to be a null allele for the locus, leaving it unclear whether a complete loss of DHR38 function might uncover novel roles for the receptor. Here we show that a specific DHR38 null allele, DHR38(Y214), leads to fully penetrant pharate adult lethality, similar to the most severe phenotype associated with the EMS-induced mutations. DHR38(Y214) mutants display minor effects on ecdysone-regulated transcription at the onset of metamorphosis. In contrast, cuticle gene expression is significantly reduced in DHR38(Y214) mutant pupae. These studies define the essential functions of DHR38 and provide a genetic context for further characterization of its roles during development.