Phenotypic diversity is generated through changes in gene structure or gene regulation. The availability of full genomic sequences allows for the analysis of gene sequence evolution. In contrast, little is known about the principles driving the evolution of gene expression. Here we describe the differential transcriptional response of four closely related yeast species to a variety of environmental stresses. Genes containing a TATA box in their promoters show an increased interspecies variability in expression, independent of their functional association. Examining additional data sets, we find that this enhanced expression divergence of TATA-containing genes is consistent across all eukaryotes studied to date, including nematodes, fruit flies, plants and mammals. TATA-dependent regulation may enhance the sensitivity of gene expression to genetic perturbations, thus facilitating expression divergence at particular genetic loci.