Plant evolution and crop domestication is founded on genetic complexity that goes well beyond single gene mutations with dramatic phenotypic effects. To study the mechanisms and principles underlying quantitative trait variation, we are using genome editing to investigate the genetic and functional architecture of cis-regulatory regions from key developmental genes. We have found that the mutagenesis of promoters can reveal hidden dosage-sensitivity of genes, and a range of transcriptional alleles and can be created to tune quantitative variation. Open chromatin and evolutionary conserved sequences in these promoters can predict functionally important cis-regulatory regions, but tissue-specific regulatory elements exist and can be resolved empirically. This work raises the question of whether rules for predicable quantitative phenotypic outcomes will emerge from genome editing to enable more efficient use of this technology for basic biology and crop improvement.
Zach Lippman is a Professor of Plant Biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator. His research group integrates genetics, development, genomics, and genome editing to study flowering and flower production in nature and agriculture. Taking advantage of natural and induced variation in these processes in tomato and related Solanaceae plants, Lippman’s group has shown how stem cell proliferation and maturation underlie diversity in vegetative and reproductive shoot systems. Identifying the genes and mechanisms underlying this diversity have led to broader exploration on the roles of structural variation, gene regulation, and epistasis in development, domestication, and breeding. Based on these discoveries, Lippman is developing and applying innovative concepts and tools for crop improvement. His contributions to plant genetics and genome editing were recognized with receiving a MacArthur Fellowship and the US National Academy of Sciences Award in Food and Agriculture.
For details of his research and recent publication, please visit HERE