We develop a general theoretical framework for the description of higher–twist baryon operators which makes maximal use of the conformal symmetry of the QCD Lagrangian. The conformal operator basis is constructed for all twists. The complete analysis of the one-loop renormalization of twist-4 operators is given. The evolution equation for three-quark operators of the same chirality turns out to be completely integrable. The spectrum of anomalous dimensions coincides in this case with the energy spectrum of the twist-4 subsector of the SU(2, 2) Heisenberg spin chain. The results are applied to give a general classification and calculate the scale dependence of subleading twist-4 nucleon distribution amplitudes that are relevant for hard exclusive reactions involving a helicity flip. In particular we find an all-order expression (in conformal spin) for the contributions of geometric twist-3 operators to the (light-cone) twist-4 nucleon distribution amplitudes
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