Nature Reviews Genetics 13, 505-516 (July 2012) | doi:10.1038/nrg3229

Comparative studies of gene expression and the evolution of gene regulation

Irene Gallego Romero1, Ilya Ruvinsky2 & Yoav Gilad1  About the authors


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.

Author affiliations

  1. Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago.
  2. Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.

Correspondence to: Yoav Gilad1 Email:

Published online 18 June 2012