Jovanka Koo, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology
On Faculty since 2013

Phone: (630)752-5724
Fax: (630)752-7278


Postdoctoral Fellowship, Northwestern University, Microbiology-Immunology

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Weill Cornell Medical College, Microbiology and Immunology

Ph.D., Microbiology, University of Washington, 2004

B.A., Biology (High Honors), Swarthmore College, 1997

About Jovanka Koo

My scientific interests focus on the regulation of gene expression in bacteria, and specifically on regulation at the post-transcriptional level. In recent years the discovery of short, non-coding regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) in both bacteria and eukaryotes, the majority of which act post-transcriptionally by base-pairing with target mRNAs, has received a great deal of attention. These sRNAs can modulate multiple regulatory circuits important for all aspects of bacterial physiology, including the regulation of virulence in pathogens. Many important questions regarding sRNA contribution to the bacterial lifestyle remain, and they pertain to the mechanism of sRNA action, the timing and duration of their function, and the implications of their evolution. I am interested in understanding the regulation of the sRNA regulators themselves.

My personal interests include traveling with my husband, running, serving at my church, spending time with family and friends, and baking.

Courses Taught

  • BIOL 362 Cell and Developmental Biology
  • BIOL 364 Microbiology and Immunology
  • BIOL 370 Introduction to Bioinformatics

Membership in Professional Societies

  • American Society for Microbiology


I use a model bacterium, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, a close relative of the plague-causing Yersinia pestis, to understand the molecular mechanism of how small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) turn genes “on” and “off.” One of the specific goals in my research is to identify genetic factors that control the expression and stability of previously identified sRNAs and their targets.


Schiano CA, Koo JT, Schipma MJ, Caulfield AJ, Jafari N, Lathem WW. (2014) Genome-wide analysis of small RNAs expressed by Yersinia pestis identifies a regulator of the Yop-Ysc type III secretion system. J Bacteriol. May;196(9):1659-70.

Lathem WW, Schroeder JA, Bellows LE, Ritzert JT, Koo JT, Price PA, Caulfield AJ, Goldman WE. (2014) Posttranscriptional regulation of the Yersinia pestis cyclic AMP receptor protein Crp and impact on virulence.  MBio. Feb 11;5(1):e01038-13.

Koo JT and Lathem WW. (2012) Global Discovery of Small Non-Coding RNAs in Pathogenic Yersinia Species. Adv Exp Med Biol. 954:305-14 

Wu K, Koo J, Jiang X, Chen R, Cohen SN, Nathan C. (2012) Improved control of tuberculosis and activation of macrophages in mice lacking protein kinase R. PLoS One. 7(2):e30512. Epub 2012 Feb 16. 

Koo JT, Alleyne TM, Schiano CA, Jafari N, Lathem WW. (2011) Global discovery of small RNAs in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis identifies Yersinia-specific small, noncoding RNAs required for virulence.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Sep 13;108(37):E709-17. Epub 2011 Aug 29. 

Seimon TA, Kim MJ, Blumenthal A, Koo J, Ehrt S, Wainwright H, Bekker LG, Kaplan G, Nathan C, Tabas I, Russell DG. (2010) Induction of ER stress in macrophages of tuberculosis granulomas. PLoS One. Sep 15; 5(9):e12772. 

Koo JT, Choe J, Moseley SL.  (2004) HrpA, a DEAH-box RNA helicase, is involved in processing of mRNA in a fimbrial operon in Escherichia coli. Mol Microbiol 52(6): 1813-26. 

Loomis WP, Koo JT, Cheung TP, Moseley SL.  (2000) A tripeptide sequence within the nascent DaaP protein is required for mRNA processing of a fimbrial operon in Escherichia coliMol Microbiol 39:  693-707

Milosavljevic A, Savkovic S, Crkvenjakov R, Salbego D, Serrato H, Kreuzer H, Gemmel A, Batus S, Grujuic D, Carnahan S, Paunesku T, Tepavcevic J.   (1996) DNA Sequence Recognition by Hybridization to Short Oligomers: Experimental Verification of the Method on the E coli Genome.  Genomics 37: 77-86

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