The pericyte: A critical cell in the pathogenesis of CADASIL

Marie Magdeleine Ruchoux, Raj N. Kalaria, Gustavo C. Román

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) is a hereditary small vessel disease presenting with migraine, mood and cognitive disorders, focal neurological deficits, recurrent ischemic attacks, lacunar infarcts and brain white matter changes. As they age, CADASIL patients invariably develop cognitive impairment and subcortical dementia. CADASIL is caused by missense mutations in the NOTCH3 gene resulting in a profound cerebral vasculopathy affecting primarily arterial vascular smooth muscle cells, which target the microcirculation and perfusion. Based on a thorough review of morphological lesions in arteries, veins, and capillaries in CADASIL, we surmise that arteriolar and capillary pericyte damage or deficiency appears a key feature in the pathogenesis of the disease. This may affect critical pericyte-endothelial interactions causing stroke injury and vasomotor disturbances. Changes in microvascular permeability due to perhaps localized blood-brain barrier alterations and pericyte secretory dysfunction likely contribute to delayed neuronal as well as glial cell death. Moreover, pericyte-mediated cerebral venous insufficiency may explain white matter lesions and the dilatation of Virchow-Robin perivascular spaces typical of CADASIL. The postulated central role of the pericyte offers some novel approaches to the study and treatment of CADASIL and enable elucidation of other forms of cerebral small vessel diseases and subcortical vascular dementia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100031
JournalCerebral Circulation - Cognition and Behavior
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Alzheimer disease
  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Cerebral blood flow
  • Endothelium
  • NOTCH3
  • Pericyte
  • Subcortical vascular dementia
  • Vascular smooth muscle cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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