CADASIL is a vascular protein aggregation disorder caused by cysteine altering NOTCH3 variants, leading to mid-adult onset stroke and dementia. Here, we report individuals with a cysteine altering NOTCH3 variant that induces exon 9 skipping, mimicking therapeutic NOTCH3 cysteine correction. The index came to our attention after a coincidental finding on a commercial screening MRI, revealing white matter hyperintensities. A heterozygous NOTCH3 c.1492G>T, p.Gly498Cys variant was identified using a gene panel, which was also present in four first- and second degree relatives. Although some degree of white matter hyperintensities was present on MRI in all family members with the NOTCH3 variant, the CADASIL phenotype was mild, as none had lacunes on MRI and there was no disability or cognitive impairment above the age of 60 years. RT-PCR and Sanger sequencing analysis on patient fibroblast RNA revealed that exon 9 was absent from the majority of NOTCH3 transcripts of the mutant allele, effectively excluding the mutation. NOTCH3 aggregation was assessed in skin biopsies using electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry and did not show granular osmiophilic material and only very mild NOTCH3 staining. For purposes of therapeutic translatability, we show that, in cell models, exon 9 exclusion can be obtained using antisense-mediated exon skipping and CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing. In conclusion, this study provides the first in-human evidence that cysteine corrective NOTCH3 exon skipping is associated with less NOTCH3 aggregation and an attenuated phenotype, justifying further therapeutic development of NOTCH3 cysteine correction for CADASIL.
Together with several groups of Human Genetics we worked on NOTCH3 in CADASIL patients, providing the first in-human evidence that cysteine corrective NOTCH3 exon skipping is associated with less NOTCH3 aggregation and an attenuated phenotype, justifying further therapeutic development of NOTCH3 cysteine correction for CADASIL.