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.

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 these fundamental processes. 

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 Drosophila and mice to address new mechanisms of growth regulation.  Important topics and the regulation of ribosome biogenesis and translation, cell competition, and the role of caspase enzymes in non-apoptotic process that control neuronal development and function.

Ribosomes are essential for growth.  Interest is accumulating in how their biogenesis and function are regulated, both during growth and in neurodegenerative disease.  We have discovered novel signaling pathways activated by defects in ribosome assembly.  We are studying the molecular signaling mechanisms involved, and how they are conserved in mammals, where ribosomal proteins are affected in several diseases and also appear to act as tumor suppressors in multiple cancers.

When organs contain mixed populations of cells, for example through somatic mutation,  ‘cell competition’ can eliminate less fit cells through selective apoptosis.  Our studies show that ribosomal protein genes play a key role in targeting cells for elimination by cell competition.  Because ribosomal protein genes are distributed across almost all chromosomes, they can serve as markers for large-scale genetic changes.  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. 

Proneural bHLH proteins are the master regulators for most neuronal differentiation.  We have found that defects in bHLH expression activate the Hippo pathway of tumor suppressors, which in turn activate caspase enzymes in non-apoptotic processes that appear to control neuronal cell fate specification as well as morphogenesis of axons, dendrites and synapses.  Some of the homologs of these genes are implicated in schizophrenia, suggesting these mechanisms may be relevant to brain diseases.

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

 

 

Selected Publications

 

Selected recent publications 

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.

Baker, N.E., and Brown, N.L.  (2018) All in the family: neuronal diversity and proneural bHLH genes.  Development, 145: dev159426.

Li, K., and Baker, N.E.  (2018)  Regulation of the Drosophila ID protein Extra Macrochaetae by proneural dimerization partners.  Elife 7: e33967.

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.

Baker, N.E.  (2017)  Mechanisms of cell competition emerging from Drosophila studies. Curr Opin Cell Biol   48, 40-46.

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.

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.

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.

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