The Hatfull lab in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh studies the molecular genetics of the mycobacteria and their mycobacteriophages. Investigations of mycobacteriophage genomics provides insights into viral diversity and evolution and offers a toolbox for understanding the major human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Phage discovery and genomics presents a powerful platform for integrating research and education missions and is implemented as the Phage Hunters Advancing Research and Education (PHIRE) and the Science Education Alliance Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) administered jointly with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).
Mycobacteriophages provide numerous opportunities for advancing the genetics of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tools such as integration-proficient vectors, non-antibiotic selectable markers, and recombineering systems are useful examples. Mycobacteriophages are also useful for efficient delivery to genetic information to their mycobacterial hosts, including delivery of transposons, reporter genes, and allelic exchange substrates. Finally, the anti-mycobacterial activity of mycobacteriophages offers an unrealized potential for control of mycobacterial infections.