Huatao Guo, PhD


Huatao Guo, PhD researches the biology and practical applications of Diversity‐Generating Retroelements (DGRs). DGRs are molecular evolution machines that are widely distributed in bacteria, archaea, and their viruses. They use an RNA-guided, reverse transcriptase (RT)-mediated mechanism to diversify protein-encoding sequences. This facilitates the adaption of their hosts to changing environments. In addition, DGRs are abundant in human gut viromes, suggesting that they play important roles in the dynamic regulation of human gut microbiomes. The prototype DGR was discovered in a bacteriophage (BPP-1) that infects Bordetella species. These are gram-negative bacterial pathogens that colonize the respiratory tracts of humans and mammals.

Recently, Dr. Guo’s research showed that mutagenic homing of the BPP-1 DGR occurs through a template RNA-primed reverse transcription (TRPRT) mechanism, in which the RNA sequence downstream of TR folds back to anneal to the 3' end of TR and is site-specifically cleaved to initiate cDNA synthesis. Adenine‐specific mutagenesis occurs during minus-strand cDNA synthesis and is a result of error-prone incorporation of standard deoxyribonucleotides when the RT protein copies adenine residues in the template RNA. It remains unknown how the primer RNA sequence is cleaved for cDNA initiation and how the mutated cDNA sequence replaces the parental VR. In addition, the mechanism of adenine-specific misincorporation by the BPP-1 DGR RT is also unknown. Dr. Guo’s research is meant to provide solutions for and improved treatment of bacterial and retroviral infectious diseases.

Academic Information

Associate Professor


M602 Medical Sciences Building
Columbia, MO 65212
United States

P. 573-884-8231

Research Interests

  • Virology and Molecular Therapies
  • Bioengineering
  • Bacterial Genetics
  • Bacterial Pathogenesis
  • Gene Expression
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Evolution
  • Bacteriology
  • Biochemistry
  • Virology

Areas of Expertise

Education & Training

Post-Graduate School

2000, PhD, University of Texas at Austin