How genomic expression differs as a function of life history variation is largely unknown. Atlantic salmon exhibits extreme alternative life histories. We defined the gene-expression signatures of wild-caught salmon at two different life stages by comparing the brain expression profiles of mature sneaker males and immature males, and early migrants and late migrants. In addition to life-stage-specific signatures, we discovered a surprisingly large gene set that was differentially regulated-at similar magnitudes, yet in opposite direction-in both life history transitions. We suggest that this co-variation is not a consequence of many independent cellular and molecular switches in the same direction but rather represents the molecular equivalent of a physiological shift orchestrated by one or very few master regulators. ?? 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.