King and Wilson are the bee’s knees for all the kids who want to hype the effect of gene expression divergence between humans and chimps. The argument boils down to a few points: humans and chimps are mad different, their protein sequences are mad similar, therefore expression of the proteins must be important for those phenotypic differences. There are some people who point out that looking at straight sequence divergence between orthologous sequences neglects the importance of copy number differences between species.
In a channeling of King and Wilson, a new paper looks at differences in transcriptional regulatory regions between humans and chimps (Haygood et al, press release). Haygood and colleagues identified cis regulatory regions (CREs) that evolved significantly faster in humans or chimps, using macaque as an outgroup. These rapidly evolving genes are enriched for neuronally expressed genes and genes involved in glucose metabolism because, you know, we’re smarter than chimps and we don’t sit around all day eating figs. Maybe if we had the chimp versions of those CREs people could sit around eating Pixie Sticks and Jolly Ranchers and never get fat.
Haygood R, Fedrigo O, Hanson B, Yokoyama K-D, Wray GA. 2007. Promoter regions of many neural- and nutrition-related genes have experienced positive selection during human evolution. Nat Genet In press doi:10.1038/ng2104