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A database of more than 100 histidine biosynthetic genes from different organisms belonging to the three primary domains has been analyzed, including those found in the now completely sequenced genomes of Haemophilus influenzae, Mycoplasma genitalium, Synechocystis sp., Methanococcus jannaschii, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The ubiquity of his genes suggests that it is a highly conserved pathway that was probably already present in the last common ancestor of all extant life. The chromosomal distribution of the his genes shows that the enterobacterial histidine operon structure is not the only possible organization, and that there is a diversity of gene arrays for the his pathway. Analysis of the available sequences shows that gene fusions (like those involved in the origin of the Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium hisIE and hisB gene structures) are not universal. In contrast, the elongation event that led to the extant hisA gene from two homologous ancestral modules, as well as the subsequent paralogous duplication that originated hisF, appear to be irreversible and are conserved in all known organisms. The available evidence supports the hypothesis that histidine biosynthesis was assembled by a gene recruitment process.