JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Cerebral autosomal recessive arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CARASIL): from discovery to gene identification

Toshio Fukutake
Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases: the Official Journal of National Stroke Association 2011, 20 (2): 85-93
21215656
Cerebral autosomal recessive arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CARASIL) is a single-gene disorder directly affecting the cerebral small blood vessels, that is caused by mutations in the HTRA1 gene encoding HtrA serine peptidase/protease 1 (HTRA1). CARASIL is the second known genetic form of ischemic, nonhypertensive, cerebral small-vessel disease with an identified gene, along with cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL). The exact prevalence of CARASIL is currently unknown, and to date approximately 50 patients have been reported, most of them from Japan and two from China. Genetically, no founder haplotype has been identified, and thus the disease is expected to be found more widely. The main clinical manifestations of CARASIL are ischemic stroke or stepwise deterioration in brain functions, progressive dementia, premature baldness, and attacks of severe low back pain or spondylosis deformans/disk herniation. The most characteristic findings on brain magnetic resonance imaging are diffuse white matter changes and multiple lacunar infarctions in the basal ganglia and thalamus. Histopathologically, CARASIL is characterized by intense arteriosclerosis, mainly in the small penetrating arteries, without granular osmiophilic materials or amyloid deposition. CARASIL is a prototype single-gene disorder of cerebral small vessels secondary to and distinct from CADASIL. CARASIL-associated mutant HTRA1 exhibited decreased protease activity and failed to repress transforming growth factor-β family signaling, indicating that the increased signaling causes arteriopathy in CARASIL. Therefore, HTRA1 represents another new gene to be considered in future studies of cerebral small-vessel diseases, as well as alopecia and degenerative vertebral/disk diseases.

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