David Gatfield, Associate Professor

David Gatfield received a diploma in biochemistry from the University of Tübingen (Germany), and a PhD for his work on mechanisms of mRNA transport and degradation under the supervision of Elisa Izaurralde at the EMBL in Heidelberg. During his post-doctoral training 2004-2010 with Ueli Schibler at the University of Geneva (Switzerland) he developed a dual interest in circadian clocks and RNA biology. He joined the CIG as a Swiss National Science Foundation Professor in November 2010 and holds the position of an Associate Professor since February 2017.

Keywords: circadian clocks, miRNAs, translation, RNA binding proteins, post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression, metabolism

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Research summary

Research in our group combines two scientific themes, RNA biology and circadian clocks.

A considerable proportion of mammalian gene expression undergoes rhythmic oscillations driven by circadian clocks. While it has been commonly thought that the majority of mRNA and protein rhythms is generated by cyclic transcription, there is accumulating evidence that post-transcriptional mechanisms make important contributions as well. Using mouse organs such as the liver and tissue culture cells as model systems, we investigate how mechanisms acting at the mRNA level participate in shaping the rhythmic transcriptome and proteome, and what consequences such regulation has for metabolism, physiology and behaviour.

In the past, one specific focus has been on the activity of microRNAs in the context of circadian gene expression. Moreover, we have initiated research lines that aim to comprehensively investigate the regulation of translation around-the-clock, and to discover RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) that function as core clock regulators. These may serve as entry points into the discovery of novel regulatory mechanisms occurring at any level of RNA metabolism from transcription to splicing, nuclear export, translation and degradation.

In summary, in the broadest sense we are interested in the question of how post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms contribute to gene expression in complex physiological situations. Circadian rhythms can be considered an excellent paradigm for such a process that is amenable to studies from the biochemical up to the behavioural level since circadian clocks are both cell-autonomous and under systemic control. In addition to offering very exciting biological questions in its own right, the circadian field may thus ideally serve to uncover general principles of gene expression regulation.

Representative publications

Google Scholar Profile

Castelo-Szekely V, Arpat AB, Janich P, Gatfield D. (2017) Translational contributions to tissue specificity in rhythmic and constitutive gene expression. Genome Biology 18:116.

Sinturel F, Gerber A, Mauvoisin D, Wang J, Gatfield D, Stubblefield JJ, Green CB, Gachon F, Schibler U. (2017) Diurnal Oscillations in Liver Mass and Cell Size Accompany Ribosome Assembly Cycles. Cell 169:651-63.

Janich P, Arpat AB, Castelo-Szekely V, Lopes M, Gatfield D. (2015) Ribosome profiling reveals the rhythmic liver translatome and circadian clock regulation by upstream open reading frames. Genome Research 25:1848-59.

Du NH, Arpat AB, De Matos M, Gatfield D. (2014) MicroRNAs shape circadian hepatic gene expression on a transcriptome-wide scale. eLife 3:02510.

Schneider K, Köcher T, Andersin T, Kurzchalia T, Schibler U, Gatfield D. (2012) CAVIN-3 regulates circadian period length and PER:CRY protein abundance and interactions. EMBO Reports 13:1138-44.



David Gatfield


Tel: +41 21 692 3994


Administrative assistant

Carine Dovat
Tel: +41 21 692 4110