Susan C. Baker, Ph.D

Susan C. Baker, Ph.D


Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

Major Research Interests: The focus of my research is to study how viruses replicate and cause disease. We are interested in identifying and characterizing viral proteins that modulate the host response to infection. We have identified several viral proteins that antagonize the innate immune response, particularly the interferon response, which is critical for controlling disease.

Learn more about Dr. Baker's Lab


We study the expression, proteolytic processing and function of the coronavirus RNA polymerase polyprotein. This complex polyprotein holds the key to understanding how coronavirus replication is regulated. We found that the polyprotein is processed into 16 products by viral proteases. Many of the replicase proteins are multifunctional and function to inhibit the innate immune response.  We are investigating the mechanism used by viral proteins to inhibit the innate immune response.  We also target viral interferon antagonists for inactivation to determine if these modified viruses can be used as live, attenuated vaccines for existing and emerging coronaviruses.

Kawasaki Disease

We also study the etiology and pathogenesis of Kawasaki Disease (KD). KD is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children in developed nations, but the cause of KD is unknown. Using KD-specific antibodies, we showed that an antigen is found in both the coronary arteries and in bronchial epithelial cells of KD patients, suggesting a respiratory portal of entry for the KD agent. We collaborate with Infectious Disease expert Dr. Anne Rowley for these studies.

O’Brien, A., Da-Yuan Chen, Matthew Hackbart, Brianna Close, Timothy E. O’Brien, Mohsan Saeed, and Susan C. Baker (2021). Detecting SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro expression and activity using a polyclonal antiserum and a luciferase-based biosensor. Virology 556: 73-78. 

Deng, Xufang, Alexandra C. Buckley, Angela Pillatzki, Kelly M. Lager, Susan C. Baker, Kay S. Faaberg (2021). Development and Utilization of an Infectious Clone for Porcine Deltacoronavirus Strain USA/IL/2014/026. Virology 553:35-45.

Mihelc, E.M., Susan C. Baker, and J.K. Lanman (2021). Coronavirus infection induces progressive restructuring of the endoplasmic reticulum involving the formation and degradation of double membrane vesicles. Virology, doi:

Gorbalenya, A.E., Baker, S.C., Baric, R.S. et al. The species Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus: classifying 2019-nCoV and naming it SARS-CoV-2. Nat Microbiol 5, 536–544 (2020).

Rowley, A. H., Susan C. Baker, D. Arrollo, L. J. Gruen, T. Bodnar, N. Innocentini, M. Hackbart, Y. Cruz-Pulido, K. M. Wylie, K. A. Kim, and S.T. Shulman (2020). A protein epitope targeted by the antibody response to Kawasaki Disease. Journal of Infectious Diseases jiaa066,

Deng, Xufang, Y. Chen, A. M. Mielech, M. Hackbart, K. R. Kesely, R. C. Mettelman, A. O’Brien, M. E. Chapman, A. D. Mesecar, and Susan C. Baker (2020). Structure-Guided Mutagenesis Alters Deubiquitinating Activity and Attenuates Pathogenesis of Murine Coronavirus. Journal of Virology doi:10.1128/JVI.01734-19.

Volk, A., Matthew Hackbart, Xufang Deng, Yazmin Cruz-Pulido, Amornrat O’Brien, and Susan C. Baker (2020). Coronavirus Endoribonuclease and Deubiquitinating Interferon Antagonists Differentially Modulate the Host Response during Replication in Macrophages. Journal of Virology doi: 10.1128/JVI.00178-20.

Hackbart, Matthew, Xufang Deng and Susan C. Baker (2020). Coronavirus endoribonuclease targets viral poly-uridine sequences to evade activating host sensors. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci.

Deng, Xufang, A.C. Buckley, A. Pillatzki, K.M. Lager, K.S. Faaberg, and Susan C. Baker. (2020). Inactivating three interferon antagonists attenuates pathogenesis of an enteric coronavirus. Journal of Virology DOI: 10.1128/JVI.00565-20.

Mettelman, Robert C., Amornrat O’Brien, Gary R. Whittaker, and Susan C. Baker. (2019). Generating and evaluating type 1 interferon receptor-deficient and feline TMPRSS2-expressing cells for propagating serotype I feline infectious peritonitis virus. Virology 537: 226-236.

Deng, Xufang, A. vanGeelen, A.C. Buckley, K.M. Lager, K.S. Faaberg, and Susan C. Baker. (2019). Coronavirus endoribonuclease activity in porcine epidemic diarrhea virus suppresses type I and type III interferon responses. J Virol 93:e02000-18. 10.1128/JVI.02000-18.

Deng, Xufang, Robert C. Mettelman, Amornrat O’Brien, and Susan C. Baker (2019). Analysis of coronavirus temperature-sensitive mutants reveals an interplay between the macrodomain and papain-like protease impacting replication and pathogenesis. JVI.02140-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02140-18.

Niemeyer, Daniela, Kirstin Mösbauer, Eva M. Klein, Andrea Sieberg, Robert C. Mettelman, Anna M. Mielech, Ronald Dijkman, Susan C. Baker, Christian Drosten, Marcel A. Müller (2018). The papain-like protease determines a virulence trai

O’Brien, A., R.C. Mettelman, A. Volk, N.M. Andre, G.R. Whittaker, Susan C. Baker. (2018). Characterizing replication kinetics and plaque production of type I feline infectious peritonitis virus in three feline cell lines. Virology 525: 1-9. PMC6483087

Deng, X.,  A. Mielech, M. Hackbart, R. Mettelman, A. O’Brien, G. Yi, C. C. Kao and Susan C. Baker. (2017). Coronavirus Nonstructural Protein 15 Mediates Evasion of dsRNA Sensors and Limits Apoptosis in Macrophages.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. doi 10.1073/pnas.1618310114.

Rowley, A.H., Baker, S.C., Kim, K.A., Shulman, S.T., Yang, A., Arrollo, D., DeBerge, M., Han, S., Sibinga, N.E.S., Pink, A.J., and E.B. Thorp. (2017). Allograft Inflammatory Factor-1 links T cell activation, interferon response, and macrophage activation in chronic Kawasaki Disease arteritis. Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society.  15 May 2017. 

Clasman, J.R., Baez-Santos, Y.M., Mettelman, R.C., O’Brien, A., Baker, Susan C. and A.D. Mesecar. (2017). X-ray structure and enzymatic activity profile of a core papain-like protease of MERS Coronavirus with utility for Structure-based Drug Design. Nature Scientific Reports 7, 40292; doi: 10.1038/srep40292. 


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