Natural variation provides a valuable resource to study the genetic regulation of quantitative traits. In quantitative trait locus (QTL) analyses this variation, captured in segregating mapping populations, is used to identify the genomic regions affecting these traits. The identification of the causal genes underlying QTLs is a major challenge for which the detection of gene expression differences is of major importance. By combining genetics with large scale expression profiling (i.e. genetical genomics), resulting in expression QTLs (eQTLs), great progress can be made in connecting phenotypic variation to genotypic diversity. In this review we discuss examples from human, mouse, Drosophila, yeast and plant research to illustrate the advances in genetical genomics, with a focus on understanding the regulatory mechanisms underlying natural variation. With their tolerance to inbreeding, short generation time and ease to generate large families, plants are ideal subjects to test new concepts in genetics. The comprehensive resources which are available for Arabidopsis make it a favorite model plant but genetical genomics also found its way to important crop species like rice, barley and wheat. We discuss eQTL profiling with respect to cis and trans regulation and show how combined studies with other ‘omics’ technologies, such as metabolomics and proteomics may further augment current information on transcriptional, translational and metabolomic signaling pathways and enable reconstruction of detailed regulatory networks. The fast developments in the ‘omics’ area will offer great potential for genetical genomics to elucidate the genotype-phenotype relationships for both fundamental and applied research.