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 in plants, which are major contributors to reproductive success and crop yield. Specifically, Lippman’s research program integrates development, genetics, genomics, and gene editing to explore the mechanisms that determine how plant stem cells become shoots and flowers. The lab takes advantage of extensive natural and mutant variation in inflorescence production and architecture in tomato and related nightshade species (e.g. potato, pepper, groundcherry) to explore how differences in these processes explain the remarkable diversity in the architectures of flower-bearing shoots (inflorescences) observed in nature and agriculture. Recent discoveries on the genes and networks underlying this diversity have led to broader questions on the significance of genomic structural variation, gene redundancy, and epistasis in development, domestication, and breeding. Based on our fundamental discoveries, Lippman is developing and applying innovative concepts and tools for crop improvement.
An essay from the President: Biology for the planet
May 16, 2019
As we advance toward the middle of the twenty-first century, humanity faces an existential challenge: figuring out how to feed the world’s rapidly growing population in the face of climate change and the increasingly limited availability of key nutrients and suitable land for farming. We need solutions that are local, national and global to increase...
Cryptic mutation is cautionary tale for crop gene editing
May 6, 2019
Even in this “age of the genome,” much about genes remains shrouded in mystery. This is especially true for “cryptic mutations”—mutated genes that are hidden, and have unexpected effects on traits that are only revealed when combined with other mutations. Learning from one infamous cryptic mutation in particular, researchers from CSHL share important lessons for...
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory announces exclusive license with plant breeding start-up Inari
April 16, 2019
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) announced today an exclusive licensing agreement with partner Inari, a company that is advancing plant breeding by tapping nature’s genetic diversity. The technology developed by CSHL Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Zachary Lippman allows Inari to tailor plant architecture and other traits in...
To protect stem cells, plants have diverse genetic backup plans
April 15, 2019
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Despite evolution driving a wide variety of differences, many plants function the same way. Now a new study has revealed the different genetic strategies various flowering plant species use to achieve the same status quo. In flowering plants, stem cells are critical for survival. Influenced by environmental factors, stem cells...
The year of CRISPR
December 26, 2018
It’s hard to have missed the acronym CRISPR this year! Headlines in the news have heralded game changing possibilities in biomedicine. Controversy and debate continue to sizzle worldwide among scientists and policymakers over the ethical implications of gene editing in humans. At Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), though, CRISPR isn’t just about headlines. It is...
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
t 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 open readers’...
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...
Lemmon, Z. H. and Reem, N. T. and Dalrymple, J. and Soyk, S. and Swartwood, K. E. and Rodriguez-Leal, D. and Van Eck, J. and Lippman, Z. B. (2018) Rapid improvement of domestication traits in an orphan crop by genome editing. Nature Plants, 4(10) pp. 766-770.
Rodríguez-Leal, Daniel and Lemmon, Zachary H. and Man, Jarrett and Bartlett, Madelaine E. and Lippman, Zachary B. (2017) Engineering Quantitative Trait Variation for Crop Improvement by Genome Editing. Cell, 171(2) pp. 470-80.
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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