Faculty Profile

Dr. Nicholas E. Baker, Ph.D.

Nicholas E. Baker, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Genetics

Professor, Department of Developmental & Molecular Biology

Professor, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences

Harold and Muriel Block Chair in Genetics

Director, Division of Molecular Genetics, Department of Genetics

Areas of Research: Cell-cell signaling during development that controls tissue size and morphology. 'Cell competition' that selectively eliminates suboptimal cells from mixed populations of cells growing at different speeds. Neural cell fate.

Professional Interests

Nicholas E. Baker, PhD
PhD 1986 MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge UK
Postdoc HHMI & Department of Molecular Cell Biology, UC Berkeley
Albert Einstein College of Medicine 1991-present

Regulatory genes that control translation, cell competition, and neuronal development

One of the unresolved questions in biology is that of how organs grow.  It is thought that cancer and neurodegenerative diseases involve defects in the regulation of cell growth and survival that are fundamental to organ growth. 

Genetic studies can be used to uncover new genes controlling tissue growth and maintenance, and to characterize their roles in vivo.  Our current research uses both Drosophila and mice to address newly discovered mechanisms of growth regulation.  These involve the mechanisms and functions of ‘cell competition’ in development and pathology, the regulation of ribosome biogenesis and translation, and the regulation of neural cell fate and reprogramming by transcription factors. 

Cell competition When organs contain mixed cell genotypes, for example because of somatic mutation during aging,  ‘cell competition’ can eliminate less fit cells through selective apoptosis of only these cells.  Our studies show that cell competition is a mechanism that can remove cells that have become aneuploid, or acquired other large-scale genetic changes, and may be important in preventing birth defects and cancer.  Our current goals include the molecular characterization of the cell competition pathway using Drosophila and its conservation and roles in aneuploidy cancer and aging in mice.  

Regulation of ribosome biogenesis Ribosomes are essential for growth.  Their biogenesis and assembly are regulated, both during growth and in neurodegenerative disease.  Our laboratory has discovered novel signaling pathways that are activated when defects occur in ribosome assembly, and that also affect cell competition (see above).  Ribosomal proteins are affected in several human diseases and also appear to act as tumor suppressors for multiple cancers.  How ribosomal proteins act as tumor suppressors is not yet clear or affect neurological disease is not yet clear.  We are studying the molecular signaling mechanisms activated by ribosomes, and their potential roles in mammalian diseases such as Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL).  

Neural cell fate determination Proneural bHLH proteins are the transcriptional master regulators for most neuronal differentiation and important in neuronal reprogramming strategies.  Their activities appear to be highly regulated.  Our studies use genetic screening in Drosophila, modern genome reseqeuncing methods and multidisciplinary studies to characterize how proneural bHLH proteins are regulated in neuronal development.

Also please see our website at http://www.einstein.yu.edu/labs/bakerlab/

Selected Publications

  1. Li, K. and Baker, N.E.  (2019)  Transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of extra macrochaetae during Drosophila adult peripheral neurogenesis.  Dev Biol 449: 41-51.
  2. Baker, N.E., Kiparaki, M. and Khan, C. (2019) A potential link between p53, cell competition and ribosomopathy in mammals and in DrosophilaDev Biol 446: 17-19.
  3. Lee, C.H., Kiparaki, M., Blanco, J., Folgado, V., Ji, Z., Kumar, A., Rimesso, G., and Baker, N.E. (2018) A regulatory response to ribosomal protein mutations controls translation, growth, and cell competition.  Dev Cell, 46, 456-469.
  4. Baker, N.E., and Brown, N.L.  (2018) All in the family: neuronal diversity and proneural bHLH genes.  Development, 145: dev159426.
  5. Li, K., and Baker, N.E.  (2018)  Regulation of the Drosophila ID protein Extra Macrochaetae by proneural dimerization partners.  Elife 7: e33967.
  6. Kale, A., Ji, Z., Kiparaki, M., Rimesso, G., Flibotte, S., and Baker, N.E.  (2018)  Ribosomal protein S12e has a distinct function in cell competition.  Dev Cell 44, 42-55.
  7. Baker, N.E.  (2017)  Mechanisms of cell competition emerging from Drosophila studies. Curr Opin Cell Biol   48, 40-46.
  8. Wang, L.-H. and Baker, N.E. (2015) E-proteins and Id-proteins: helix-loop-helix partners in development and disease.  Dev Cell 35: 269-280.
  9. Wang, L.-H. and Baker, N.E.  (2015) Salvador-Warts-Hippo pathway in a developmental checkpoint monitoring Helix-Loop-Helix proteins.  Dev Cell 32:.191-202.
  10. Bhattacharya, A., and Baker, N.E. (2011).  A network of broadly-expressed HLH genes regulates tissue-specific cell fates.  Cell, 147: 881-892.

More Information About Dr. Nicholas Baker

Baker laboratory

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Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus
1300 Morris Park Avenue
Ullmann Building, Room 805
Bronx, NY 10461

Tel: 718.430.2854

Research Information

In the News

USA Today quotes Dr. Nicholas Baker about a recent paper in Nature that found a gene which may be responsible for the color and patterns that appear on insect wings.

More media coverage