Gene context conservation of a higher order than operons.
Operons, co-transcribed and co-regulated contiguous sets of genes, are poorly conserved over short periods of evolutionary time. The gene order, gene content and regulatory mechanisms of operons can be very different, even in closely related species. Here, we present several lines of evidence which suggest that, although an operon and its individual genes and regulatory structures are rearranged when comparing the genomes of different species, this rearrangement is a conservative process. Genomic rearrangements invariably maintain individual genes in very specific functional and regulatory contexts. We call this conserved context an uber-operon.