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Asifa Akhtar Profile Page
Asifa Akhtar


Lab: Dr. Asifa Akhtar
Department: Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics
Address: Stübeweg 51
79108 Freiburg
Phone: 0049 761 5108 565
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Lab homepage:
BIOSS Excellence Cluster: Member
PhD positions available: YES
Research Area: Protein Structure and Function
Research Interests: Chromatin and epigenetic regulation


Education & Training: 1997 PhD in Molecular Biology at Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, UK
1993 BSc in Biology at University College London (UCL), London, UK
Employment & Experience: 1990-1993: Undergraduate Student, University College London (UCL)
1993-1997: PhD Student, Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), London
1997-1999: Postdoctoral Research Scientist, European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg
1999-2001: Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Adolf-Butenandt Institut, Molekularbiologie, Munich
2001- 2009: Group Leader, EMBL, Gene Expression Program, Heidelberg
2009-2013: Max Planck Investigator, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Freiburg
since April 2013: Director, Department of Chromatin Regulation, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Freiburg
since January 2015: Managing Director, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Freiburg
Scientific Activities: 2002-2009 Member of EMBL Graduate Student committee and EICAT committee
2002-2009 Member of EMBL monoclonal antibody user committee
2004-2009 Board member and elected representative of the Newly Established Teams (NET) in the EU FP6 funded “Epigenome” Network of Excellence
2005 Evaluator for the EU FP6 program
2006 Guest Editor: Special issue of Chromosome Research
2006 - Editor; PLoS Genetics
2006-2009 Member of EMBL Standing Advisory Committee
2007 Editorial Advisory board member; Chromosome Research
2007 Member of INSERM expert base
2007 Editorial board member; Targeted protein database ‘Epigenetic Regulators”.
2009- Member of the postdoctoral program evaluation panel, CRG, Barcelona
2009- Member and vice spokesman of the IMPRS graduate committee
2009 Evaluator for EU FP7 program
2010 Evaluator for the DFG
2011-2012 Guest Editor; Current Opionion in Cell Biology
2010-2015 Co-coordinator of the EU FP7 funded Network of Excellence „EpiGeneSys“
2012-present Co-speaker and board member for DFG-SFB992
2012 Section Editor „Current Opinions in Cell Biology“ for the 2012 issue
2012 Reviewer for EU funded EPIGEN project
2012-present Member of the Board of Reviewing Editors (BRE) „elife“
2013 Search committee W1 professorship BIOSS Freiburg
2013-present Eight core (search) commissions for Max Planck directors
2014 AERES evaluation of IGH Montpellier, France
2015 MRC Clinical Sciences Center Review, London, UK


Honors and Awards:

2002: EMBO YIP PhD student course. Evaluated as the best lecturer of the course.
2003: EMBO YIP PhD student course. Evaluated as the best lecturer of the course.
2004: EMBO YIP PhD student course. Evaluated as the best lecturer of the course.
2008: Recipient of European Life Science Organization ELSO’s Early Career Award
2013: Awarded FEBS National Lecture
2013: Elected EMBO member
2014: Elected member of the Max Planck Perspectives Committee
2015: Elected member of the Intersectional Board of the Scientific Council of the Max Planck Society


Selected Publications:

Quinn JJ, Zhang QC, Georgiev P, Ilik IA, Akhtar A and Chang HY. (2016) Rapid evolutionary turnover underlies conserved lncRNA–genome interactions. Genes & Development 30, 191-207. Abstract

Keller CI and Akhtar A. (2015). The MSL complex: juggling RNA-protein interactions for dosage compensation and beyond. Current Opinion in Genetics & Development 31, 1-11. Abstract

Meunier S, Shvedunova M, Van Nhuong N, Avila L, Vernos I and Akhtar A. (2015). An epigenetic regulator emerges as microtubule minus-end binding and stabilizing factor in mitosis. Nature Communications 6, 7889 doi:10.1038/ncomms8889. Abstract

Sheikh BN, Bechtel-Walz W, Lucci J, Karpiuk O, Hild I, Hartleben B, Vornweg J, Diehl S, Levit E, Hobeika E, Stehle T, Voss AK, Thomas T, Reth M, Manke T, Huber TB and Akhtar A. (2015). MOF maintains Transcriptional Programs regulating Cellular Stress Response. Oncogene 00, 1-13. Abstract

Ramirez F, Lingg T, Toscano S, Lam KC, Georgiev P, Chung HR. Lajoie B, de Wit E, Zhan Y, de Laat W, Dekker J, Manke T and Akhtar A. (2015). High-affinity sites form an interaction network to facilitate spreading of the MSL complex across the X chromosome in Drosophila. Molecular Cell 60, 146-162. Abstract

Chelmicki T, Dündar F, Turley M, Khanam T, Aktas T, Ramírez F, Gendrel AV, Heard E, Manke T, Akhtar A (2014) MOF-associated complexes ensure stem cell identity and Xist repression. eLife 2014; 10.7554/eLife.02024). Abstract

Dias J*, Van Nguyen N*, Georgiev P, Gaub A, Brettschneider J, Cusack S, Kadlec J and Akhtar A (2014). Structural analysis of the KANSL1/WDR5/KANSL2 complex reveals that WDR5 is required for efficient assembly and chromatin targeting of the NSL complex.  Genes Dev. 28, 929-942. Abstract

Ilik I, Quinn JJ, Georgiev P, Tavares-Cadete F, Maticzka, Toscano S, Wan Y, Spitale RC, Luscombe NM, Backofen R, Change HY, Akhtar A (2013) Tandem stem loops in roX RNAs act together to mediate X chromosome dosage compensation in Drosophila. Molecular Cell 51, 156-173. Abstract

Hallacli E, Lipp M, Georgiev P, Spielman C, Cusack S, Akhtar A, and Kadlec J. (2012) Msl1-Mediated Dimerization of the Dosage Compensation Complex Is Essential for Male X-Chromosome Regulation in Drosophila. Molecular Cell 48, 587-600 *co-corresponding authors. Abstract

Conrad T and Akhtar A (2012) Dosage compensation in Drosophila: epigenetic fine-tuning of chromosome-wide transcription. Nat Rev Genet. 13, 123-134. Abstract

SGBM PhD students

SGBM PhD students:

Shantanu Iyer (January 2014-February 2019)

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