Susan K. Buchanan, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Laboratory of Molecular Biology


Building 50, Room 4503
50 South Drive
Bethesda, MD 20814


Research Topics

Research Goal

The goal of my lab’s research program is to provide basic science information that will lead to the development of more effective vaccines and drugs against bacterial infections.

Current Research

Our research program focuses on the structure determination of integral membrane proteins.  We perform X-ray crystallography and functional analysis of these proteins using biophysical, biochemical, and cell biological techniques.  We study transporters embedded in the outer membranes of Gram-negative bacteria, which are surface accessible and therefore have the potential to be good vaccine and/or drug targets against infectious diseases.  We also study the membrane associated or soluble protein partners that interact with outer membrane transporters to understand how these systems function in vivo.  Current topics in the lab include (1) small molecule and protein import across the bacterial outer membrane, (2) protein secretion by pathogenic bacteria, and (3) protein import across mitochondrial outer membranes

Applying our Research

This work advances medical research and will directly benefit the public.  We have already succeeded in identifying an alternative drug treatment to antibiotics that may result in reduced multi-drug resistance in bacterial pathogens.  We have also spent several years developing novel vaccines against plague.  The approaches we use can be similarly applied to other bacterial diseases.

Need for Further Study

Multidrug resistance arising from indiscriminate and widespread use of antibiotics is a growing health threat, and we need to develop much better strategies for treatment and prevention of bacterial infections.


  • Ph.D., Frankfurt University, 1990
  • M.S., Princeton University, 1986
  • B.S., Furman University, 1983

Selected Publications

  1. Noinaj N, Kuszak AJ, Gumbart JC, Lukacik P, Chang H, Easley NC, Lithgow T, Buchanan SK. Structural insight into the biogenesis of β-barrel membrane proteins. Nature. 2013;501(7467):385-90.

  2. Celia H, Noinaj N, Zakharov SD, Bordignon E, Botos I, Santamaria M, Barnard TJ, Cramer WA, Lloubes R, Buchanan SK. Structural insight into the role of the Ton complex in energy transduction. Nature. 2016;538(7623):60-65.

  3. Bakelar J, Buchanan SK, Noinaj N. The structure of the β-barrel assembly machinery complex. Science. 2016;351(6269):180-6.

  4. Lukacik P, Barnard TJ, Keller PW, Chaturvedi KS, Seddiki N, Fairman JW, Noinaj N, Kirby TL, Henderson JP, Steven AC, Hinnebusch BJ, Buchanan SK. Structural engineering of a phage lysin that targets gram-negative pathogens. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012;109(25):9857-62.

  5. Noinaj N, Easley NC, Oke M, Mizuno N, Gumbart J, Boura E, Steere AN, Zak O, Aisen P, Tajkhorshid E, Evans RW, Gorringe AR, Mason AB, Steven AC, Buchanan SK. Structural basis for iron piracy by pathogenic Neisseria. Nature. 2012;483(7387):53-8.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on March 30th, 2017