Juvenile hormone (JH) is a major hormone regulating insect development. We have obtained a cDNA and a genomic clone for juvenile hormone esterase (JHE), the enzyme that is involved in the degradation of juvenile hormone and which is critical for insect development. Analysis of the regulation of JHE during the final larval stadium in the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni, showed that the JHE mRNA levels are maximal on days 2 and 4 of the final stadium. Nuclear run-on analyses demonstrated that changes in JHE mRNA levels are primarily due to changes in the transcription rate of the gene, which may be a single copy in the genome. Treatment with a JH analog resulted in induction of JHE gene transcription, which could be detected within three hours after treatment. Salient features present in the 5′ flanking region of this JH-sensitive gene are presented, including the presence of sequences closely resembling binding sites for members of the family of nuclear receptors. This report is the first direct demonstration, by nuclear run-on analysis, of JH induction of gene transcription. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.