My research team studies the genes that determine when and where, and thus how many, flowers are produced on plants. Flowers form on branches called inflorescences, which originate from stem cells. By studying the genes that control how stem cells become inflorescences, we are able to manipulate flower production to improve crop yields.
Zachary Lippman’s research focuses on the process of flowering and flower production, which is a major contributor to plant reproductive success and agricultural yield. By identifying genes that control how tomato plants produce their flowers in their characteristic repeated zigzag arrangement (e.g., tomatoes on a vine), Lippman’s lab is addressing when and how flowering branches known as inflorescences develop on plants, particularly fruit-bearing plants. Of particular interest is how these “reproductive phase transitions” have contributed to the evolution of diverse inflorescence branching patterns in tomato’s larger Solanaceae family, which includes plants that make just one flower, such as pepper and petunia, in each inflorescence, to plants whose inflorescences produce dozens of branches and hundreds of flowers, such as many wild species of tomato. Using a combination of genetic, genomic, and molecular approaches, Lippman is dissecting the gene networks that are responsible for the variation in inflorescence branching found in nature. He hopes to leverage these discoveries to improve crop yields. Already, his work on genes that are responsible for the production and activity of a universal flowering hormone known as florigen has resulted in novel approaches to fi ne-tune plant architecture and flower production, boosting yield beyond leading commercial varieties. To continue hunting for new genes, Lippman has adopted a systems-biology approach and next-generation sequencing technology to capture those genes that are active as stem cells mature from a vegetative to a reproductive state. Nearly 4000 genes were found to reflect the existence of a “maturation clock,” and one of the clock genes known as Terminating Flower acts as a key regulator to maintain a progressive pace to flowering—which in turn, dictates how many flowers are produced on each tomato inflorescence. Finally, the Lippman lab determined the genome sequence of the “currant tomato,” the wild ancestor of larger-fruited cultivated tomatoes, in order to better understand how flower and fruit production changed during the process of crop domestication.
CRISPR could bring groundcherries to market
October 1, 2018
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Most people have never tasted a groundcherry; the small, sweet relative of the tomato that plant biologist Zachary Lippman describes as “tropically intoxicating.” That’s because the groundcherry plant, with its long, straggly branches and sporadically ripening fruit, is unsuitable for large-scale agriculture. For now, the treat is reserved for people...
A science writer’s quest to understand heredity
May 30, 2018
LabDish Blog At this very moment, there is more Neanderthal DNA on Earth than there was when Neanderthals were alive. Bits of their DNA, inherited tens of thousands of years ago, persist in many of our genomes today. This astounding legacy is one of many revelations that renowned science writer Carl Zimmer uses to burst...
Prof. Zachary Lippman named Blavatnik Award finalist
May 30, 2018
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Professor and Jacob Goldfield Professor of Genetics Zachary Lippman has been selected as a Finalist in Life Sciences for the 2018 Blavatnik National Awards. The Blavatnik National Awards honor outstanding scientists under the age of 42 in the fields of Life Sciences, Chemistry, and Physical Sciences & Engineering. “This award...
CSHL’s Zachary Lippman named HHMI Investigator
May 23, 2018
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Zachary Lippman, Ph.D, a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Professor and Jacob Goldfield Professor of Genetics, has been selected to be a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator. Dr. Lippman is among 19 other scientists who have just received this distinction. HHMI also announced that it will invest $200 million...
One experiment: Twice the tomatoes
March 22, 2018
Those plump red fruits aren’t the only sweets spots of a tomato plant. The branches have them too. When breeding plants to produce more fruit, “you want to be in a sweet spot” in terms of branching because “plants have to be balanced in their growth,” says Professor Zachary Lippman. That two-pronged plant on the...
Plant geneticists develop a new application of CRISPR to break yield barriers in crops
September 14, 2017
Mutating regulatory regions varies yield traits the way a dimmer switch controls a light bulb Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have harnessed the untapped power of genome editing to improve agricultural crops. Using tomato as an example, they have mobilized CRISPR/Cas9 technology to rapidly generate variants of the...
Public Lecture: THE CHANGING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMANS AND PLANTS – “It’s complicated”
September 8, 2017
THE CHANGING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMANS AND PLANTS: ✓ It’s complicated David Jackson, Ph.D. – Professor, CSHL Zachary Lippman, Ph.D. – Professor, CSHL Doreen Ware, Ph.D. – Adjunct Associate Professor, CSHL & USDA Agricultural Research Service RSVP HERE
Tomato baby and its family
July 14, 2017
Base Pairs podcast One day, while out tending their experimental tomato fields, Associate Professor Zachary Lippman and his team found something totally bizarre and common at the same time. It was a tomato that looked like a baby, with a head, a body, and arms that seemed to be waving “hello”—and it wasn’t some laboratory-created...
CRISPR vs. climate change
June 15, 2017
Base Pairs podcast Much of the hype around the genome editing tool known as CRISPR focuses on its potential to cure genetic diseases. But our bodies need more than a healthy genome to survive and thrive—they also need food, and that’s where we may see CRISPR’s earliest effects on our lives. “When I think about...
Fine-tuning dosage of mutant genes unleashes long-trapped yield potential in tomato plants
May 18, 2017
Understanding gene interactions can enable breeders to break existing productivity barriers in agriculture Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Breeding in plants and animals typically involves straightforward addition. As beneficial new traits are discovered—like resistance to drought or larger fruits—they are added to existing prized varieties, delivered via cross-breeding. Yet every once in a while, adding...
Soyk, Sebastian and Lemmon, Zachary H. and Oved, Matan and Fisher, Josef and Liberatore, Katie L. and Park, Soon Ju and Goren, Anna and Jiang, Ke and Ramos, Alexis and van der Knaap, Esther and Van Eck, Joyce and Zamir, Dani and Eshed, Yuval and Lippman, Zachary B. (2017) Bypassing Negative Epistasis on Yield in Tomato Imposed by a Domestication Gene. Cell, 169(6) pp. 1142-1155.
Soyk, S. and Muller, N. A. and Park, S. J. and Schmalenbach, I. and Jiang, K. and Hayama, R. and Zhang, L. and Van Eck, J. and Jimenez-Gomez, J. M. and Lippman, Z. B. (2017) Variation in the flowering gene SELF PRUNING 5G promotes day-neutrality and early yield in tomato. Nat Genet, 49(1) pp. 162-168.
Lemmon, Z. H. and Park, S. J. and Jiang, K. and Van Eck, J. and Schatz, M. C. and Lippman, Z. B. (2016) The evolution of inflorescence diversity in the nightshades and heterochrony during meristem maturation. Genome Res, 26(12) pp. 1676-1686.
Xu, C. and Liberatore, K. L. and MacAlister, C. A. and Huang, Z. and Chu, Y. H. and Jiang, K. and Brooks, C. and Ogawa-Ohnishi, M. and Xiong, G. and Pauly, M. and Van Eck, J. and Matsubayashi, Y. and van der Knaap, E. and Lippman, Z. B. (2015) A cascade of arabinosyltransferases controls shoot meristem size in tomato. Nat Genet, 47(7) pp. 784-792.
Park, S. J. and Jiang, K. and Tal, L. and Yichie, Y. and Gar, O. and Zamir, D. and Eshed, Y. and Lippman, Z. B. (2014) Optimization of crop productivity in tomato using induced mutations in the florigen pathway. Nature Genetics, 46(12) pp. 1337-1342.Additional materials of the author at
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