Variation in gene expression levels on a genomic scale has been detected among different strains, among closely related species, and within populations of genetically identical cells. What are the driving forces that lead to expression divergence in some genes and conserved expression in others? Here we employ flux balance analysis to address this question for metabolic genes. We consider the genome-scale metabolic model of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and its entire space of optimal and near-optimal flux distributions. We show that this space reveals underlying evolutionary constraints on expression regulation, as well as on the conservation of the underlying gene sequences. Genes that have a high range of optimal flux levels tend to display divergent expression levels among different yeast strains and species. This suggests that gene regulation has diverged in those parts of the metabolic network that are less constrained. In addition, we show that genes that are active in a large fraction of the space of optimal solutions tend to have conserved sequences. This supports the possibility that there is less selective pressure to maintain genes that are relevant for only a small number of metabolic states.