Zeynep A. Koçer Laboratory


Zeynep Koçer zeynep.kocer@deu.edu.tr
Yavuz Mercan, MSc Student



Originated from wild waterfowl, influenza A viruses are capable of infecting variety of host species including human, poultry, horses, swine, cats, dogs, sea and land mammals. Interspecies transmission risk among multiple hosts and the error-prone nature of the virus genome coupled with its segmented structure facilitate the emergence of novel subtypes and strains. Some of these novel variants show altered virulence and transmissibility that might eventually lead to emergence of novel pandemic strains. Therefore, active surveillance studies play a critical role for both public and veterinary health.

Kocer Research
**Adopted from Koçer et al (2013) Emergence of influenza viruses and crossing the species barrier. ASM Microbiology Spectrum 1(2) doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.OH-0010-2012


Our research is focused on the prevalence of influenza A viruses among migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, their molecular characterization and the risk assessment analysis at human-animal interface to understand ecological nature of the disease transmission between different hosts. Our recent studies showed that low pathogenic influenza A viruses (Kocer et al., 2012; Kocer et al., 2015; Zanin et al., 2016) of purely avian origin can cause disease in mammalian models. Moreover, some of these viruses were transmissible between individuals via direct contact or airborne routes of infection (Kocer et al., 2012; Kocer et al., 2015).

Global active influenza surveillance efforts have been carried out in animal and human populations annually to track down the molecular and antigenic changes in the virus genome. Comprehensive risk assessment analyses of individual isolates play a crucial role for taking precautionary actions for outbreak- and pandemic-causing strains. Turkey is located at the heart of the Mediterranean/Black Sea flyway through which billions of migratory birds travel twice a year. In that respect, our study will shed light on the diversity of low pathogenic influenza A viruses in Turkey and the data we gather will connect the dots in the big picture of influenza A evolution.

Our main goal is to perform a comprehensive risk assessment analysis for low pathogenic influenza A viruses of avian-origin in Turkey to assess their disease potential in mammals. This will help us reveal the disease ecology at human-animal interface. To achieve this goal, we aim to (1) determine the prevalence of influenza A viruses among migratory and local waterfowl and shorebirds at Gediz Delta, Izmir, (2) assess the genetic and antigenic changes in virus genomes in currently circulating viruses, and (3) assess their disease potential and transmissibility in mammalian models.

Lab members:

Koçer lab is currently seeking highly motivated graduate students and post-docs. If interested, please contact by email at zeynep.kocer@deu.edu.tr

Education/Research Experience
July 17 – present Assistant Professor; Izmir International Biomedicine and Genome Institute (IBG-Izmir), Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey
2015 – 2017 Scientist; Influenza Research Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA
2010 – 2014 Postdoctoral Research Associate; St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Department of Infectious Diseases, Memphis, TN, USA
2010 Ph.D. in Environmental Microbiology, Department of Biological Sciences, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, USA
2005 M.Sc. in Biotechnology, Graduate School of Natural and Applied Sciences, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey
2001 B.Sc. in Biology, Department of Biology, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey
• Nominated for the Vice Chair for Minority, Women and International Affairs of the Postdoc Council, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN, USA (2013 & 2014)
• Postdoctoral Fellow Travel Grant, ASV 30th Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN, USA (2011)
• 1st place Doctoral Research Award, Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, BGSU Research Conference, Bowling Green, OH, USA (2009)
• ASM Corporate Activities Program Student Travel Grant Award, 109th ASM General Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, USA (2009)
• Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Bowling Green State University, Graduate Student
Senate, Bowling Green, OH, USA (2008-2009)
• Outstanding International Graduate Student Award, Bowling Green State University, Graduate Student Senate, Bowling Green, OH, USA (2008-2009)
• Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award Nominee, Bowling Green State University, Graduate Student Senate, Bowling Green, OH, USA (2008-2009)
• Student Travel Grant Award, The 4th Orthomyxovirus Conference, Woods Hole, MA, USA (2007)
• PhD Scholarship and Teaching Assistantship, Bowling Green State University, Department of Biological Sciences, Bowling Green, OH, USA (2006-2010)
• President’s Honor List, Middle East Technical University (METU), Turkey (2000-2001)
Full list and citations: Google Scholar: Zeynep A. Koçer
• Zanin M, Koçer ZA, Poulson RL, Gabbard JD, Howerth EW, Jones CA, Friedman K, Seiler J, Danner A, Kercher L, McBride R, Paulson JC, Wentworth DE, Krauss S, Tompkins SM, Stallknecht DE, Webster RG (2016) The potential for low pathogenic avian H7 influenza A viruses to replicate and cause disease in a mammalian model. Journal of Virology, published online ahead of print; 16 November 2016;  doi:10.1128/JVI.01934-16
• Koçer ZA* Carter R*, Wu G, Zhang J, Webster RG (2015) The genomic contributions of avian H1N1 influenza A viruses to the evolution of mammalian strains. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0133795. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0133795 (* equal contribution)
• Koçer ZA, Krauss S, Zanin M, Danner A, Gulati S, Jones JC, Friedman K, Graham A, Forrest H, Seiler J, Air GM, Webster RG (2015) Possible basis for the emergence of H1N1 viruses with pandemic potential from avian hosts. Emerging Microbes & Infections, 4, e40; doi: 10.1038/emi.2015.40 (http://www.nature.com/emi/journal/v4/n7/full/emi201540a.html)
• Koçer ZA, Fan Y, Huether R, Obenauer J, Webby RJ, Zhang J, Webster RG, Wu G. (2014) Survival analysis of infected mice reveals pathogenic variations in the genome of avian H1N1 viruses. Scientific Reports, 4: 7455. doi: 10.1038/srep07455 (http://www.nature.com/srep/2014/141212/srep07455/full/srep07455.html)
• Jones JC, Sonnberg S, Koçer ZA, Shanmuganatham K, Seiler P, Shu Y, Zhu H, Guan Y, Peiris M, Webby R, Webster RG (2014) Possible role of songbirds and parakeets in transmission of influenza A(H7N9) virus to humans. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 20(3): 380-385. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2003.131271
• Koçer ZA, Jones, JC and Webster RG (2013) Emergence of influenza viruses and crossing the species barrier. Review article. ASM Microbiology Spectrum 1(2) doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.OH-0010-2012
• The SJCEIRS H9 Working Group (2013) Assessing the fitness of distinct clades of influenza A (H9N2) viruses. Emerging Microbes and Infections, 2: e75; doi:10.1038/emi.2013.75 (http://www.nature.com/emi/journal/v2/n11/full/emi201375a.html). Koçer ZA was a sub-team leader and a contributing author. Please see the Author Contributions.
• Koçer ZA, Obenauer J, Zaraket H, Zhang J, Rehg JE, Russell CJ, Webster RG. (2013) Fecal influenza in mammals: selection of novel variants. Journal of Virology, 87(21): 11476-86. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01544-13. Epub 2013 Aug21.
• Koçer ZA*, Shtarkman, Y*, Edgar R, Veerapaneni R, D’Elia T, Morris PF and Rogers SO (2013) Subglacial Lake Vostok (Antarctica) accretion ice contains a diverse set of sequences from aquatic, marine and sediment-inhabiting Bacteria and Eukarya. PLoS ONE. 8(7): e67221.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067221. (* equal contribution)
• D’souza NA, Kawarasaki Y, Gantz JD, Lee RE Jr, Beall BFN, Shtarkman YM, Koçer ZA, Rogers SO, Wildschutte H, Bullerjahn GS, McKay RML (2013) Diatoms assemblages promote ice formation in large lakes. The ISME Journal, 7:1632-1640; advanced online publication, April 4, 2013; doi:10.1038/ismej.2013.49. (http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/v7/n8/full/ ismej201349a.html)
• Rogers, S, Shtarkman Y, Koçer ZA, Edgar R, Veerapaneni R, D’Elia T (2013) Ecology of subglacial Lake Vostok (Antarctica) based on metagenomic/ metatranscriptomic analyses of accretion ice. Biology, 2(2): 629-650. doi:10.3390/biology2020629.
• Koçer ZA, Krauss S, Stallknecht DE, Rehg JE, Webster RG (2012) The Potential of Avian H1N1 Influenza A Viruses to Replicate and Cause Disease in Mammalian Models. PLoS ONE 7(7):e41609.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041609
Koçer ZA, Gozen AG, Onde S and Kaya Z (2011) Indirect organogenesis from bud explants of Juniperus communis L.: Effects of genotype, gender, sampling time and growth regulator combinations. Dendrobiology, 66: 34-40.
• Koçer ZA, Jones, JC and Webster RG (2014) Emergence of influenza viruses and crossing the species barrier. Chapter 8 in One Health: People, Animals and the Environment. ASM Press. pp: 115-135.