Asifa Akhtar obtained her bachelors degree in biology at University College London (UCL), UK, in 1993 and her Ph.D. in 1998 at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, studying transcription regulation in Richard Treisman’s laboratory. She continued in the field of chromatin regulation as a postdoctoral fellow at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, Germany, and the Adolf Butenandt Institute, Munich, Germany, in Peter Becker’s laboratory until 2001. From 2001, she led her own research as a group leader at the EMBL. Currently, Asifa Akhtar is a director at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany, heading the department of chromatin regulation. Her laboratory primarily studies chromatin and epigenetic mechanisms, especially focusing on the regulation by histone acetylation. In 2008, Asifa Akhtar received the European Life Science Organization (ELSO) award for significant contribution in the field and in 2013 she was elected as an EMBO member. In 2017, she received the prestigious Feldberg Prize.
Our lab is studying the chromatin and epigenetic mechanisms regulated by histone acetylation using evolutionary conserved complexes associated with MOF, a MYST family of histone acetyl transferase. In files and mammals MOF is associated with the MSL and NSL complexes, which are important regulators of gene expression. In flies the MSL complex is well known for regulation of the X chromosome by the process of dosage compensation, while the NSL complex regulates expression of house keeping genes. In mammals, both complexes appear to be involved in regulating diverse cellular processes. The recent progress of our work will be presented.