Comparison of protein and mRNA expression evolution in humans and chimpanzees

Ning Fu, Ines Drinnenberg, Janet Kelso, Jia Rui Wu, Svante Pääbo, Rong Zeng, Philipp Khaitovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Even though mRNA expression levels are commonly used as a proxy for estimating functional differences that occur at the protein level, the relation between mRNA and protein expression is not well established. Further, no study to date has tested whether the evolutionary differences in mRNA expression observed between species reflect those observed in protein expression. Since a large proportion of mRNA expression differences observed between mammalian species appears to have no functional consequences for the phenotype, it is conceivable that many or most mRNA expression differences are not reflected at the protein level. If this is true, then differences in protein expression may largely reflect functional adaptations observed in species phenotypes. In this paper, we present the first direct comparison of mRNA and protein expression differences seen between humans and chimpanzees. We reproducibly find a significant positive correlation between mRNA expression and protein expression differences. This correlation is comparable in magnitude to that found between mRNA and protein expression changes at different developmental stages or in different physiological conditions within one species. Noticeably, this correlation is mainly due to genes with large expression differences between species. Our study opens the door to a new level of understanding of regulatory evolution and poses many new questions that remain to be answered.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere216
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Comparison of protein and mRNA expression evolution in humans and chimpanzees'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this