David G. Schatz PhD

Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry; Chair of Immunobiology


Dr. Schatz has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms that assemble and diversify antigen receptor genes that encode antibodies and T cell receptors. He is best known for the discovery of RAG1 and RAG2, subsequent biochemical insights into RAG function and evolutionary origins, and the discovery of two distinct levels of regulation of somatic hypermutation.

As a graduate student with David Baltimore, Schatz established an assay for the detection of V(D)J recombination activity and, in collaboration with Marjorie Oettinger, used this assay to isolate the Recombination Activating Genes RAG1 and RAG2, whose gene products constitute the vital, lymphocyte-specific components of the V(D)J recombination machinery. This discovery transformed the field of V(D)J recombination and stands as a seminal event in the field of Immunology. Schatz has since provided important insights into the mechanism of V(D)J recombination. Schatz and Martin Gellert co-discovered the ability of RAG1/2 to perform DNA transposition, with implications for our understanding of the evolution of the adaptive immune system and the mechanism of V(D)J recombination. Schatz has made important contributions to the field of somatic hypermutation, including the discovery of strand asymmetric spreading of mutations and the existence of two distinct levels of targeting of the reaction, one of which relies on gene-specific DNA repair: error-prone at immunoglobulin genes and high-fidelity at numerous proto-oncogenes. His laboratory remains interested in understanding the mechanism of regulation of V(D)J recombination and somatic hypermutation.

Schatz has co-authored over 110 articles, many in prestigious journals, and has been the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including the Rhodes Scholarship, the Snow Prize (Yale University's top award to a graduating senior), the National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellows Award, and the American Association of Immunologists-BD Biosciences Investigator Award. He has been active as an editor and reviewer, serving as Co-Editor of the journal Immunity, as a member of the editorial board of a number of journals, and as a member and Chair of the NIH study section Cellular and Molecular Immunology-A. Schatz has also been very interested in graduate education, serving for many years as the Director of Graduate Studies and Graduate Admissions for Immunobiology and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS) Program.

Schatz received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University in 1980, and a M.A. degree in Philosophy and Politics from Oxford University in 1982. His Ph.D. degree (1990) and postdoctoral training were done with Dr. David Baltimore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.