Tuning gene expression to changing environments: from rapid responses to evolutionary adaptation

Nat Rev Genet. 2008 Aug;9(8):583-93. doi: 10.1038/nrg2398.


Organisms are constantly exposed to a wide range of environmental changes, including both short-term changes during their lifetime and longer-term changes across generations. Stress-related gene expression programmes, characterized by distinct transcriptional mechanisms and high levels of noise in their expression patterns, need to be balanced with growth-related gene expression programmes. A range of recent studies give fascinating insight into cellular strategies for keeping gene expression in tune with physiological needs dictated by the environment, promoting adaptation to both short- and long-term environmental changes. Not only do organisms show great resilience to external challenges, but emerging data suggest that they also exploit these challenges to fuel phenotypic variation and evolutionary innovation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Environment*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Growth and Development / genetics
  • Growth and Development / physiology
  • Homeostasis / genetics
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology