Staff member

Benedetta Bolognesi

Group Leader
+34 934 035094 (Lab)
CV Summary
Benedetta Bolognesi was a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge (UK) under the supervision of Prof. Chris Dobson. There, her work focused on the intrinsic determinants of aggregation and toxicity of the amyloid-beta peptide. Then, she moved to the Centre for Genomic Regulation (Barcelona, Spain) with an interdisciplinary Marie Curie fellowship to elucidate the mechanisms underlying dosage sensitivity in yeast. Towards the end of her post-doc she developed a deep mutational scanning (DMS) strategy to quantify the effect of thousands of mutations in disordered protein domains. That is what got her into DMS - an approach she and her team use now in the lab to answer a wide range of biological questions, with a particular focus on proteins that form liquid condensates and amyloids.
Staff member publications

Claussnitzer, Melina, Parikh, Victoria N, Wagner, Alex H, Arbesfeld, Jeremy A, Bult, Carol J, Firth, Helen V, Muffley, Lara A, Ba, Alex N Nguyen, Riehle, Kevin, Roth, Frederick P, Tabet, Daniel, Bolognesi, Benedetta, Glazer, Andrew M, Rubin, Alan F, (2024). Minimum information and guidelines for reporting a multiplexed assay of variant effect Genome Biology 25, 100

Multiplexed assays of variant effect (MAVEs) have emerged as a powerful approach for interrogating thousands of genetic variants in a single experiment. The flexibility and widespread adoption of these techniques across diverse disciplines have led to a heterogeneous mix of data formats and descriptions, which complicates the downstream use of the resulting datasets. To address these issues and promote reproducibility and reuse of MAVE data, we define a set of minimum information standards for MAVE data and metadata and outline a controlled vocabulary aligned with established biomedical ontologies for describing these experimental designs.

JTD Keywords: Genomics, standards, genetic variants, multiplexed assays of variant effect, mave, deep mutational scanning, dm

Fowler, DM, Adams, DJ, Gloyn, AL, Hahn, WC, Marks, DS, Muffley, LA, Neal, JT, Roth, FP, Rubin, AF, Starita, LM, Hurles, ME, Ahituv, N, Bahcal, OG, Baldridge, D, Berg, JS, Berger, AH, Bianchi, AH, Bolognesi, B, Boutros, M, Brenner, S, Brush, MH, Bryant, V, Bult, CJ, Bulyk, M, Call, M, Carter, H, Claussnitzer, M, Chen, F, Cline, MS, Cuperus, JT, Dawood, M, De Jong, HN, Dias, M, Dunn, M, Engreitz, J, Farh, K, Febbo, PG, Fields, S, Findlay, GM, Firth, H, Fraser, JS, Frazer, J, Frontini, M, Romero, IG, Glazer, AM, Guler, M, Hartmann-Petersen, R, Houlston, R, Huang, KL, Hutter, CM, Jagannathan, S, James, RG, Kampmann, M, Karchin, R, Kinney, JB, Komor, AC, Kosuri, S, Lehner, B, Lindorff-Larsen, K, Lombard, Z, MacArthur, DG, Martin, M, McDermott, U, McNulty, SM, Ba, ANN, O'Donnell-Luria, A, O'Roak, BJ, Parikh, VN, Parts, L, Pazin, MJ, Pesaran, T, Petrovski, S, Queitsch, C, Root, DE, Shendure, J, Spurdle, AB, Taylor, KL, Turnbull, C, Villen, J, Vissers, LELM, Wagner, AH, Wakefield, MJ, Weile, J, Xiao, J, (2023). An Atlas of Variant Effects to understand the genome at nucleotide resolution Genome Biology 24, 147

Sequencing has revealed hundreds of millions of human genetic variants, and continued efforts will only add to this variant avalanche. Insufficient information exists to interpret the effects of most variants, limiting opportunities for precision medicine and comprehension of genome function. A solution lies in experimental assessment of the functional effect of variants, which can reveal their biological and clinical impact. However, variant effect assays have generally been undertaken reactively for individual variants only after and, in most cases long after, their first observation. Now, multiplexed assays of variant effect can characterise massive numbers of variants simultaneously, yielding variant effect maps that reveal the function of every possible single nucleotide change in a gene or regulatory element. Generating maps for every protein encoding gene and regulatory element in the human genome would create an 'Atlas' of variant effect maps and transform our understanding of genetics and usher in a new era of nucleotide-resolution functional knowledge of the genome. An Atlas would reveal the fundamental biology of the human genome, inform human evolution, empower the development and use of therapeutics and maximize the utility of genomics for diagnosing and treating disease. The Atlas of Variant Effects Alliance is an international collaborative group comprising hundreds of researchers, technologists and clinicians dedicated to realising an Atlas of Variant Effects to help deliver on the promise of genomics.

JTD Keywords: functional genomics, genome interpretation, global alliance, multiplexed assay of variant effect, saturation mutagenesis, Functional genomics, Genome interpretation, Global alliance, Multiplexed assay of variant effect, Saturation mutagenesis, Variant effect

Seuma, M, Lehner, B, Bolognesi, B, (2022). An atlas of amyloid aggregation: the impact of substitutions, insertions, deletions and truncations on amyloid beta fibril nucleation Nature Communications 13, 7084

Multiplexed assays of variant effects (MAVEs) guide clinical variant interpretation and reveal disease mechanisms. To date, MAVEs have focussed on a single mutation type-amino acid (AA) substitutions-despite the diversity of coding variants that cause disease. Here we use Deep Indel Mutagenesis (DIM) to generate a comprehensive atlas of diverse variant effects for a disease protein, the amyloid beta (Aβ) peptide that aggregates in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and is mutated in familial AD (fAD). The atlas identifies known fAD mutations and reveals that many variants beyond substitutions accelerate Aβ aggregation and are likely to be pathogenic. Truncations, substitutions, insertions, single- and internal multi-AA deletions differ in their propensity to enhance or impair aggregation, but likely pathogenic variants from all classes are highly enriched in the polar N-terminal region of Aβ. This comparative atlas highlights the importance of including diverse mutation types in MAVEs and provides important mechanistic insights into amyloid nucleation.© 2022. The Author(s).

JTD Keywords: amyloid-beta(1-42), determinants, disease, mutants, protein, secondary nucleation, Atomic-resolution structure

Seuma, M, Bolognesi, B, (2022). Understanding and evolving prions by yeast multiplexed assays Current Opinion In Genetics & Development 75, 101941

Yeast genetics made it possible to derive the first fundamental insights into prion composition, conformation, and propagation. Fast-forward 30 years and the same model organism is now proving an extremely powerful tool to comprehensively explore the impact of mutations in prion sequences on their function, toxicity, and physical properties. Here, we provide an overview of novel multiplexed strategies where deep mutagenesis is combined to a range of tailored selection assays in yeast, which are particularly amenable for investigating prions and prion-like sequences. By mimicking evolution in a flask, these multiplexed approaches are revealing mechanistic insights on the consequences of prion self-assembly, while also reporting on the structure prion sequences adopt in vivo.Copyright © 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: aggregation, appearance, domains, inheritance, mutations, nucleation, physical basis, propagation, protein, Phase-separation

Marte, L, Boronat, S, Barrios, R, Barcons-Simon, A, Bolognesi, B, Cabrera, M, Ayté, J, Hidalgo, E, (2022). Expression of Huntingtin and TDP-43 Derivatives in Fission Yeast Can Cause Both Beneficial and Toxic Effects International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 3950

Many neurodegenerative disorders display protein aggregation as a hallmark, Huntingtin and TDP-43 aggregates being characteristic of Huntington disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, respectively. However, whether these aggregates cause the diseases, are secondary by-products, or even have protective effects, is a matter of debate. Mutations in both human proteins can modulate the structure, number and type of aggregates, as well as their toxicity. To study the role of protein aggregates in cellular fitness, we have expressed in a highly tractable unicellular model different variants of Huntingtin and TDP-43. They each display specific patterns of aggregation and toxicity, even though in both cases proteins have to be very highly expressed to affect cell fitness. The aggregation properties of Huntingtin, but not of TDP-43, are affected by chaperones such as Hsp104 and the Hsp40 couple Mas5, suggesting that the TDP-43, but not Huntingtin, derivatives have intrinsic aggregation propensity. Importantly, expression of the aggregating form of Huntingtin causes a significant extension of fission yeast lifespan, probably as a consequence of kidnapping chaperones required for maintaining stress responses off. Our study demonstrates that in general these prion-like proteins do not cause toxicity under normal conditions, and in fact they can protect cells through indirect mechanisms which up-regulate cellular defense pathways. © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

JTD Keywords: aggregation, antioxidant, degradation, features, fission yeast, gene, huntingtin, neurodegenerative diseases, pap1, polyglutamine toxicity, protein aggregation, proteins, stress, tdp-43, Amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis, Chaperone, Chemistry, Dna binding protein, Dna-binding proteins, Fission yeast, Genetics, Human, Humans, Huntingtin, Metabolism, Molecular chaperones, Neurodegenerative diseases, Prion, Prions, Protein aggregate, Protein aggregates, Protein aggregation, Schizosaccharomyces, Tdp-43

Badia, M, Bolognesi, B, (2021). Assembling the right type of switch: Protein condensation to signal cell death Current Opinion In Cell Biology 69, 55-61

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd Protein phase transitions are particularly amenable for cell signalling as these highly cooperative processes allow cells to make binary decisions in response to relatively small intracellular changes. The different processes of condensate formation and the distinct material properties of the resulting condensates provide a dictionary to modulate a range of decisions on cell fate. We argue that, on the one hand, the reversibility of liquid demixing offers a chance to arrest cell growth under specific circumstances. On the other hand, the transition to amyloids is better suited for terminal decisions such as those leading to apoptosis and necrosis. Here, we review recent examples of both scenarios, highlighting how mutations in signalling proteins affect the formation of biomolecular condensates with drastic effects on cell survival.

JTD Keywords: amyloid, cell death, deep mutagenesis, llps, rna-binding proteins, Amyloid, Cell death, Deep mutagenesis, Llps, Rna-binding proteins

Seuma, M, Faure, AJ, Badia, M, Lehner, B, Bolognesi, B, (2021). The genetic landscape for amyloid beta fibril nucleation accurately discriminates familial Alzheimer's disease mutations Elife 10, e63364

Plaques of the amyloid beta (A beta) peptide are a pathological hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common form of dementia. Mutations in A beta also cause familial forms of AD (fAD). Here, we use deep mutational scanning to quantify the effects of >14,000 mutations on the aggregation of A beta. The resulting genetic landscape reveals mechanistic insights into fibril nucleation, including the importance of charge and gatekeeper residues in the disordered region outside of the amyloid core in preventing nucleation. Strikingly, unlike computational predictors and previous measurements, the empirical nucleation scores accurately identify all known dominant fAD mutations in A beta, genetically validating that the mechanism of nucleation in a cell-based assay is likely to be very similar to the mechanism that causes the human disease. These results provide the first comprehensive atlas of how mutations alter the formation of any amyloid fibril and a resource for the interpretation of genetic variation in A beta.

JTD Keywords: aggregation, kinetics, oligomers, onset, rates, state, Aggregation, Alzheimer's, Amyloid, Computational biology, Deep mutagenesis, Genetics, Genomics, Kinetics, Nucleation, Oligomers, Onset, Precursor protein, Rates, S. cerevisiae, State, Systems biology

Bolognesi, Benedetta, Faure, Andre J., Seuma, Mireia, Schmiedel, Jörrn M., Tartaglia, Gian Gaetano, Lehner, Ben, (2019). The mutational landscape of a prion-like domain Nature Communications 10, (1), 4162

Insoluble protein aggregates are the hallmarks of many neurodegenerative diseases. For example, aggregates of TDP-43 occur in nearly all cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). However, whether aggregates cause cellular toxicity is still not clear, even in simpler cellular systems. We reasoned that deep mutagenesis might be a powerful approach to disentangle the relationship between aggregation and toxicity. We generated >50,000 mutations in the prion-like domain (PRD) of TDP-43 and quantified their toxicity in yeast cells. Surprisingly, mutations that increase hydrophobicity and aggregation strongly decrease toxicity. In contrast, toxic variants promote the formation of dynamic liquid-like condensates. Mutations have their strongest effects in a hotspot that genetic interactions reveal to be structured in vivo, illustrating how mutagenesis can probe the in vivo structures of unstructured proteins. Our results show that aggregation of TDP-43 is not harmful but protects cells, most likely by titrating the protein away from a toxic liquid-like phase.

JTD Keywords: Computational biology and bioinformatics, Genomics, Mechanisms of disease, Neurodegeneration, Systems biology

Bolognesi, Benedetta, Lehner, Ben, (2018). Reaching the limit eLife 7, e39804

How many copies of a protein can be made before it becomes toxic to the cell?

JTD Keywords: Protein burden, Overexpression, Glycolysis