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All cells in our bodies contain the same genetic information. Yet, these cells make up very different parts of the body like liver, heart, and eyes. This is achieved by expressing certain genes and inactivating others. The protein MOF is known to play an important role in this process: DNA does not flow freely in the cell nucleus but is packaged by histone proteins. There, MOF facilitates reading the genetic information encoded in the DNA by modifying the histones. ASIFA AKHTAR describes in this video how the researchers were surprised to find that, in mammals, MOF is not only present in the nucleus but also in the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell. To understand which role MOF plays in both locations, the team employed confocal microscopy, biochemistry and genetics to study the effect of removing the protein from the cell. Their findings indicate that MOF controls gene expression both in the nucleus and the mitochondria. This implicates a link between gene expression and metabolism control which might provide a new perspective on how changes in the environment that influence the metabolism can impinge on the expression of genes.


Asifa Akhtar is Director at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany, heading the Department of Chromatin Regulation. Furthermore, she serves as evaluator for numerous research and funding organizations and works as an editor for well-recognized scientific journals like eLife and PLoS Genetics. Before joining the Max Planck Society as a Max Planck Investigator in 2009, she was a group leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany.
Akhtar’s research investigates the influence of chromatin and epigenetic mechanisms on gene expression. For her scientific achievements Akhtar received the European Life Science Organization (ELSO) Early Career Award in 2008 and the Feldberg Prize in 2017. In 2013, she was elected as an EMBO member.


Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics

The Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics (MPI-IE) in Freiburg is an interdisciplinary research institution that conducts basic research in two key areas of modern biology.

Immunobiology is concerned with the ways multicellular organisms defend themselves against pathogens. We study the evolutionary origins and the development of lymphoid organs and immune effector cells, the function of antigen receptors, and the genetic basis of host-pathogen interactions. This information underpins efforts to better diagnose and treat immunodeficiency and inflammatory diseases.

Epigenetics is the study of inheritable traits that are not caused by changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Epigenetic mechanisms are crucial for the organization and utilization of our genetic information. Since the susceptibility to diseases can be promoted by epigenetic dysfunction, epigenetic research has far-reaching implications for diagnosis and therapy of human disease.

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Original publication

MOF Acetyl Transferase Regulates Transcription and Respiration in Mitochondria

others, Kretz Oliver, Chatterjee Aindrila, Seyfferth Janine, Lucci Jacopo, Gilsbach Ralf, Preissl Sebastian, Böttinger Lena, Martensson Christoph U., Panhale Amol, Stehle Thomas and Akhtar Asifa
Published in 2016

Reading recommendations

Functional Interplay Between MSL1 and CDK7 Controls RNA Polymerase II Ser5 Phosphorylation

others, Georgiev Plamen, Holz Herbert, Chlamydas Sarantis, Samata Maria, Chelmicki Tomasz, Pelechano Vicent, Dündar Friederike, Dasmeh Pouria, Mittler Gerhard and Cadete Filipe Tavares
Nature Structural & Molecular Biology
Published in 2016

MOF Maintains Transcriptional Programs Regulating Cellular Stress Response

others, Lucci Jacopo, Sheikh Bilal N., Bechtel-Walz Wibke, Karpiuk Oleksandra, Hild I., Hartleben Björn, Vornweg Julia, Helmstädter Martin, Sahyoun Abdullah and Bhardwaj Vivek
Published in 2015

MOF-associated Complexes Ensure Stem Cell Identity and Xist Repression

others, Ramírez Fidel, Backofen Rolf, Chelmicki Tomasz, Dündar Friederike, Turley Matthew James, Khanam Tasneem, Aktas Tugce, Gendrel Anne-Valerie, Wright Patrick Rudolf and Videm Pavankumar
Published in 2014

Drosophila Dosage Compensation Involves Enhanced Pol II Recruitment to Male X-linked Promoters

Akhtar Asifa, Vaquerizas Juan M., Luscombe Nicholas M., Conrad Thomas and Cavalli Florence M. G.
Published in 2012

The MOF Chromobarrel Domain Controls Genome-wide H4K16 Acetylation and Spreading of the MSL Complex

Akhtar Asifa, Holz Herbert, Vaquerizas Juan M., Luscombe Nicholas M., Kind Jop, Conrad Thomas, Cavalli Florence M. G., Hallacli Erinc and Ilik Ibrahim
Developmental Cell
Published in 2012

Dosage Compensation in Drosophila Melanogaster: Epigenetic Fine-tuning of Chromosome-wide Transcription

Akhtar Asifa and Conrad Thomas
Nature Reviews Genetics
Published in 2012

Msl1-mediated Dimerization of the Dosage Compensation Complex is Essential for Male X-chromosome Regulation in Drosophila

Akhtar Asifa, Georgiev Plamen, Hallacli Erinc, Lipp Michael, Spielman Clare, Cusack Stephen and Kadlec Jan
Molecular Cell
Published in 2012

Structural Basis for MOF and MSL3 Recruitment Into the Dosage Compensation Complex by MSL1

Akhtar Asifa, Holz Herbert, Hallacli Erinc, Lipp Michael, Cusack Stephen, Kadlec Jan and Sanchez-Weatherby Juan
Nature Structural & Molecular Biology
Published in 2011

Activation of Transcription Through Histone H4 Acetylation by MOF, An Acetyltransferase Essential for Dosage Compensation in Drosophila

Akhtar Asifa and Becker Peter B.
Molecular Cell
Published in 2000

Nuclear Pore Components Are Involved in the Transcriptional Regulation of Dosage Compensation

Asifa Akhtar, S. Mendjan, M. Taipale, J. Kind, H. Holz, P. Gebhardt, M. Schneider, M. Vermeulen, A. Buscaino, K. Duncan, J. Mueller, M. Wilm, H.G. Stunnenberg et al
Molecular Cell
Published in 2006
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