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1.  Abnormal recruitment of extracellular matrix proteins by excess Notch3ECD: a new pathomechanism in CADASIL 
Brain  2013;136(6):1830-1845.
Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy, or CADASIL, one of the most common inherited small vessel diseases of the brain, is characterized by a progressive loss of vascular smooth muscle cells and extracellular matrix accumulation. The disease is caused by highly stereotyped mutations within the extracellular domain of the NOTCH3 receptor (Notch3ECD) that result in an odd number of cysteine residues. While CADASIL-associated NOTCH3 mutations differentially affect NOTCH3 receptor function and activity, they all are associated with early accumulation of Notch3ECD-containing aggregates in small vessels. We still lack mechanistic explanation to link NOTCH3 mutations with small vessel pathology. Herein, we hypothesized that excess Notch3ECD could recruit and sequester functionally important proteins within small vessels of the brain. We performed biochemical, nano-liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry and immunohistochemical analyses, using cerebral and arterial tissue derived from patients with CADASIL and mouse models of CADASIL that exhibit vascular lesions in the end- and early-stage of the disease, respectively. Biochemical fractionation of brain and artery samples demonstrated that mutant Notch3ECD accumulates in disulphide cross-linked detergent-insoluble aggregates in mice and patients with CADASIL. Further proteomic and immunohistochemical analyses identified two functionally important extracellular matrix proteins, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases 3 (TIMP3) and vitronectin (VTN) that are sequestered into Notch3ECD-containing aggregates. Using cultured cells, we show that increased levels or aggregation of Notch3 enhances the formation of Notch3ECD–TIMP3 complex, promoting TIMP3 recruitment and accumulation. In turn, TIMP3 promotes complex formation including NOTCH3 and VTN. In vivo, brain vessels from mice and patients with CADASIL exhibit elevated levels of both insoluble cross-linked and soluble TIMP3 species. Moreover, reverse zymography assays show a significant elevation of TIMP3 activity in the brain vessels from mice and patients with CADASIL. Collectively, our findings lend support to a Notch3ECD cascade hypothesis in CADASIL disease pathology, which posits that aggregation/accumulation of Notch3ECD in the brain vessels is a central event, promoting the abnormal recruitment of functionally important extracellular matrix proteins that may ultimately cause multifactorial toxicity. Specifically, our results suggest a dysregulation of TIMP3 activity, which could contribute to mutant Notch3ECD toxicity by impairing extracellular matrix homeostasis in small vessels.
PMCID: PMC3673461  PMID: 23649698
CADASIL; Notch3; protein aggregation; extracellular matrix proteins; cerebrovasculature
2.  Distinct phenotypic and functional features of CADASIL mutations in the Notch3 ligand binding domain 
Brain  2009;132(6):1601-1612.
Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) is an autosomal dominant small-vessel disease of the brain caused by mutations in the NOTCH3 receptor. The highly stereotyped nature of the mutations, which alter the number of cysteine residues within the epidermal growth factor-like repeats (EGFR), predicts that all mutations share common mechanisms. Prior in vitro assays and genetic studies in the mouse support the hypothesis that common mutations do not compromise canonical Notch3 function but instead convey a non-physiological and deleterious activity to the receptor through the unpaired cysteine residue. Intriguingly, in vitro studies predict that mutations located in the Delta/Serrate/LAG-2 ligand binding domain-(EGFR10-11) may result in a loss of Notch3 receptor function. However, the in vivo relevance and functional significance of this with respect to the pathogenic mechanisms and clinical expression of the disease remain largely unexplored. To ascertain, in vivo, the functional significance of EGFR10-11 mutations, we generated transgenic mice with one representative mutation (C428S) in EGFR10 of Notch3. These mice, like those with a common R90C mutation, developed characteristic arterial accumulation of Notch3 protein and granular osmiophilic material upon aging. By introducing the mutant C428S transgene into a Notch3 null background, we found that, unlike the R90C mutant protein, the C428S mutant protein has lost wild-type Notch3 activity and exhibited mild dominant-negative activity in three different biological settings. From a large prospectively recruited cohort of 176 CADASIL patients, we identified 10 patients, from five distinct pedigrees carrying a mutation in EGFR10 or 11. These mutations were associated with significantly higher Mini-Mental State Examination and Mattis Dementia Rating Scale scores (P < 0.05), when compared with common mutations. Additionally, we found a strong effect of this genotype on the burden of white matter hyperintensities (P < 0.01). Collectively, these results highlight distinctive functional and phenotypic features of EGFR10-11 mutations relative to the common CADASIL mutations. Our findings are compatible with the hypothesis that EGFR10-11 mutations cause the disease through the same gain of novel function as the common mutations, and lead us to propose that reduced Notch3 signalling acts as a modifier of the CADASIL phenotype.
PMCID: PMC2685919  PMID: 19293235
CADASIL; Notch3; transgenic; genotype-phenotype correlations
3.  Congruence between NOTCH3 mutations and GOM in 131 CADASIL patients 
Brain  2009;132(4):933-939.
Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) is the most common hereditary subcortical vascular dementia. It is caused by mutations in NOTCH3 gene, which encodes a large transmembrane receptor Notch3. The key pathological finding is the accumulation of granular osmiophilic material (GOM), which contains extracellular domains of Notch3, on degenerating vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). GOM has been considered specifically diagnostic for CADASIL, but the reports on the sensitivity of detecting GOM in patients’ skin biopsy have been contradictory. To solve this contradiction, we performed a retrospective investigation of 131 Finnish, Swedish and French CADASIL patients, who had been adequately examined for both NOTCH3 mutation and presence of GOM. The patients were examined according to the diagnostic practice in each country. NOTCH3 mutations were assessed by restriction enzyme analysis of specific mutations or by sequence analysis. Presence of GOM was examined by electron microscopy (EM) in skin biopsies. Biopsies of 26 mutation-negative relatives from CADASIL families served as the controls. GOM was detected in all 131 mutation positive patients. Altogether our patients had 34 different pathogenic mutations which included three novel point mutations (p.Cys67Ser, p.Cys251Tyr and p.Tyr1069Cys) and a novel duplication (p.Glu434_Leu436dup). The detection of GOM by EM in skin biopsies was a highly reliable diagnostic method: in this cohort the congruence between NOTCH3 mutations and presence of GOM was 100%. However, due to the retrospective nature of this study, exact figure for sensitivity cannot be determined, but it would require a prospective study to exclude possible selection bias. The identification of a pathogenic NOTCH3 mutation is an indisputable evidence for CADASIL, but demonstration of GOM provides a cost-effective guide for estimating how far one should proceed with the extensive search for a new or an uncommon mutations among the presently known over 170 different NOTCH3 gene defects. The diagnostic skin biopsy should include the border zone between deep dermis and upper subcutis, where small arterial vessels of correct size are located. Detection of GOM requires technically adequate biopsies and distinction of true GOM from fallacious deposits. If GOM is not found in the first vessel or biopsy, other vessels or additional biopsies should be examined.
PMCID: PMC2668941  PMID: 19174371
CADASIL; GOM; skin biopsy; NOTCH3; genetic testing

Results 1-3 (3)