Comparative studies of gene expression and the evolution of gene regulation

Nat Rev Genet. 2012 Jun 18;13(7):505-16. doi: 10.1038/nrg3229.


The hypothesis that differences in gene regulation have an important role in speciation and adaptation is more than 40 years old. With the advent of new sequencing technologies, we are able to characterize and study gene expression levels and associated regulatory mechanisms in a large number of individuals and species at an unprecedented resolution and scale. We have thus gained new insights into the evolutionary pressures that shape gene expression levels and have developed an appreciation for the relative importance of evolutionary changes in different regulatory genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. The current challenge is to link gene regulatory changes to adaptive evolution of complex phenotypes. Here we mainly focus on comparative studies in primates and how they are complemented by studies in model organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / genetics
  • Adaptation, Biological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Genetic Speciation*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Physiology, Comparative / methods*
  • Primates / genetics*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Species Specificity
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Transcription Factors