Insect molting is triggered by ecdysteroids, which are produced in the prothoracic glands (PG). The broad (br) gene is one of the 'early genes' directly regulated by ecdysteroids. Ectopic expression of the BR-Z3 isoform in early second instar Drosophila larvae (L2) before the rise of the ecdysteroid titer prevented molting to the third instar, but the larvae subsequently formed L2 prepupae after prolonged feeding. When these larvae were fed on diet containing 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E), they formed pharate third instar larvae. The critical weight for normal L3 pupariation of w(1118) larvae was found to be 0.8 mg and that for L2 pupariation was 0.45 mg. We also defined a threshold weight for metamorphosis of 0.3 mg, above which L2 larvae will metamorphose when provided with 20E. BR-Z3 apparently works through the PG cells of the ring gland but not the putative neurosecretory cells that drive ecdysone secretion, because ectopic expression of BR-Z3 specifically in the ring gland caused 53% of the larvae to become permanent first instar larvae. Driving other BR isoforms in the ring gland prevented larval molting or pupariation to varying degrees. These molting defects were rescued by feeding 20E. Overexpression of each of the BR isoforms caused degeneration of the PG cells but on different time courses, indicating that BR is a signal for the degeneration of the PG cells that normally occurs during the pupal-adult transition.