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Yeserin Yildirim

B.Sc., M.Sc.


physical: Building 16.11 // The Station Crescent // Oteha Rohe
tel: +64 9 4140800 ext 43813 // email: y.yildirim(at)


I completed my BSc and MSc degrees on Molecular Biology and Genetics at Boğaziçi University (Istanbul, Turkey). During my MSc project, I performed genetic linkage analysis to map genetic loci and identify the responsible gene in three families afflicted with different hereditary diseases, namely gerodermia osteodysplasticum, recessive intellectual disability, motor dysfunction and multiple joint contractures and the median cleft lip of both lips.


I am interested in population genetics and issues relating to the distribution of diversity.

Since July 2009, several dog poisoning events have occurred in the Hauraki Gulf region of New Zealand. The cause of the poisoning appears to be the grey side-gilled sea slug (Pleurobranchaea maculata), which contains high concentrations of tetrodotoxin (TTX). TTX is a very powerful neurotoxin, also found in other organisms such as the puffer fish and the blue-ringed octopus. However, sea slugs were not previously known to harbour TTX. Not all sea slugs have equal levels of TTX; in fact it appears that some (from different regions of NZ) are completely lacking the toxin. In addition, the origin of TTX in sea slugs is not known. Sea slugs may themselves produce the toxin, it may accumulate through their diet, or it may be produced by some symbiotic bacteria.

I am currently investigating the genetic diversity and population structure of P. maculata populations from NZ my means of microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA markers. My project also aims to understand the relationship between genetic structure and toxicity levels of different populations. My PhD journey revealed that different markers tell different stories about the genetic structure of this organism, which is quite curious. Now, I am at the stage of writing my thesis and interpreting my results.

The project is a collaborative effort involving investigators at the Allan Wilson Center for Molecular Ecology & Evolution (Craig Millar & Nigel French), the Cawthron Institute, and the Auckland Regional Council. We hope that this study will help to shed light on the origin of TTX in sea slugs and will provide opportunity to assess the risk of toxic populations spreading to other regions of NZ.


Moreno-Puig V, Yildirim Y, Brunton DH. 2014. Development of microsatellite markers for the critically endangered frog Telmatobufo bullocki and cross-species amplification in two related species. Conserv Genet Resour: 1-2.

Yıldırım Y, Patel S, Millar CD, Rainey PB. 2014. Microsatellite development for a tetrodotoxin-containing sea slug (Pleurobranchaea maculata). Biochem Syst Ecol 55:342-345.

Yıldırım Y, Kerem M, Köroğlu Ç, Tolun A. 2013. A homozygous 237-kb deletion at 1p31 identified as the locus for midline cleft of the upper and lower lip in a consanguineous family. Eur J Hum Genet. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2013.138.

Yıldırım Y, Orhan EK, Iseri SA, Serdaroglu-Oflazer P, Kara B, Solakoğlu S, Tolun A. 2011. A frameshift mutation of ERLIN2 in recessive intellectual disability, motor dysfunction and multiple joint contractures. Hum Mol Genet 20:1886–1892.

Tüysüz B, Tolun A, Yıldırım Y. 2011. Response to Kouwenberg et al.“Recognizable Phenotype With Common Occurrence of Microcephaly, Psychomotor Retardation, But No Spontaneous Bone Fractures in ARCL2B Due to PYCR1 Mutations. Am J Med Genet A 55.9: 2333-2334.

Yıldırım Y, Tolun A, Tüysüz B. 2010. The phenotype caused by PYCR1 mutations corresponds to geroderma osteodysplasticum rather than autosomal recessive cutis laxa type 2. Am J Med Genet Part A 155:134–140.

Yeserin Yildirim