Professor, Department of Genetics
Harold and Muriel Block Chair in Genetics
Fundamental mechanisms of growth and and development
Control of growth and form remains a central question in biology. How do different organs develop and maintain particular morphologies? Growth and morphogenesis are regulated in many ways. Growth stops with terminal cell cycle exit and must be up-regulated for regeneration, tissue regulation, or response to damage. Many diseases involve disorders in these events. To study these processes in intact animals, molecular and genetic manipulation of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster permits in vivo studies not yet possible in most organisms. We are also employing mathematical models to understand cell-cell interactions fully.
Current projects include:
1) ‘Cell competition’ is a process that occurs between cells that differ in growth, for example because of different expression levels of ribosomal protein genes or of the proto-oncogene myc. It is thought that cell competition may exist to identify and eliminate aneuploid cells, or progenitor cells with reduced fitness, and that cell competition suppresses cancer and genome damage during aging. We have identified multiple genes that are required for cell competition and are studying the molecular mechanisms and their potential contributions to aging and cancer in flies and mice.
2) HLH proteins represent a well-known class of transcription factors that are important in development. Their ubiquitously-expressed heterodimer partners are implicated in a very wide variety of diseases. We are studying how they are controlled both to allow differentiation and to promote or suppress progenitor cell proliferation, processes that underly human diseases such as Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome, schizophrenia, Fuchs corneal dystrophy, Rett syndrome, and atherosclerosis.
For more details, and complete list of publications, please see our website at
Selected recent publications
Baker, N.E. and Kale, A. (2016). Mutations in ribosomal proteins: apoptosis, cell competition and cancer. Mol Cell Oncol advance online publication: DOI:10.1080/23723556.2015.1029065.
Wang, L. H. and Baker, N.E. (2015). E-proteins and ID-proteins: Helix-loop-helix partners in development and disease. Dev Cell 35: 269-80.
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.
Kale, A., Li, W., Lee, C.-H. and Baker, N.E. (2015). Apoptotic mechanisms during competition of ribosomal protein mutant cells: roles of the initiator caspases Dronc and Dream/Strica. Cell Death Differen 2: 1300-1312.
Fullard, J.F. and Baker, N.E. (2015). Signaling by the engulfment receptor Draper: a screen in Drosophila melanogaster implicates cytoskeletal regulators, Jun N-terminal Kinase, and Yorkie. Genetics 199: 117-134.
Baker, N.E. and Jenny, A. (2014). Metabolism and the other fat: a protocadherin in mitochondria. Cell 158: 1240-1.
Ruggiero, R., Kale, A., Thomas, B. and Baker, N.E. (2012) Mitosis in neurons: Roughex and Anaphase Promoting Complex maintain cell cycle exit to prevent cytokinetic and axonal defects in Drosophila photoreceptor neurons. PLoS Genetics 8:e1003049.
Bhattacharya, A. and Baker, N.E. (2011). A network of broadly-expressed HLH genes regulates tissue-specific cell fates. Cell 147, 881-892.
Lubensky, D.K., Pennington, M.W., Shraiman, B., and Baker, N.E. (2011). A dynamical model of ommatidial crystal formation. Proc Natl Acad Sci 108: 11145-11150.
Baker, N.E., and Firth, L.C. (2011). Retinal Determination Genes function along with cell-cell
signals to regulate Drosophila eye development: examples of multi-layered regulation by Master
Regulators. Bioessays 33: 538-546.
Baker, N.E. (2011). Cell competition. Curr Biol 21: R11-15.
More Information About Dr. Nicholas Baker
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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
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.