Armita Nourmohammad, Joachim Rambeau, Torsten Held, Johannes Berg, Michael Lassig
(Submitted on 23 Feb 2015)
Gene expression levels are important molecular quantitative traits that link genotypes to molecular functions and fitness. In Drosophila, population-genetic studies in recent years have revealed substantial adaptive evolution at the genomic level. However, the evolutionary modes of gene expression have remained controversial. Here we present evidence that adaptation dominates the evolution of gene expression levels in flies. We show that 64% of the observed expression divergence across seven Drosophila species are adaptive changes driven by directional selection. Our results are derived from the variation of expression within species and the time-resolved divergence across a family of related species, using a new inference method for selection. We identify functional classes of adaptively regulated genes, as well as sex-specific adaptation occurring predominantly in males. Our analysis opens a new avenue to map system-wide selection on molecular quantitative traits independently of their genetic basis.