Whole-exome sequencing of Finnish patients with vascular cognitive impairment


Cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD) is the most important cause of vascular cognitive impairment (VCI). Most CSVD cases are sporadic but familial monogenic forms of the disorder have also been described. Despite the variants identified, many CSVD cases remain unexplained genetically. We used whole-exome sequencing in an attempt to identify novel gene variants underlying CSVD. A cohort of 35 Finnish patients with suspected CSVD was analyzed. Patients were screened negative for the most common variants affecting function in NOTCH3 in Finland (p.Arg133Cys and p.Arg182Cys). Whole-exome sequencing was performed to search for a genetic cause of CSVD. Our study resulted in the detection of possibly pathogenic variants or variants of unknown significance in genes known to associate with CSVD in six patients, accounting for 17% of cases. Those genes included NOTCH3, HTRA1, COL4A1, and COL4A2. We also identified variants with predicted pathogenic effect in genes associated with other neurological or stroke-related conditions in seven patients, accounting for 20% of cases. This study supports pathogenic roles of variants in COL4A1, COL4A2, and HTRA1 in CSVD and VCI. Our results also suggest that vascular pathogenic mechanisms are linked to neurodegenerative conditions and provide novel insights into the molecular basis of VCI.

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Fig. 1: Schematic presentation of the study describing the workflow of selection of patients and genetic examinations.


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We thank Prof. (emeritus) Hannu Kalimo and the CADASIL group for discussions when planning this study.


This study was supported by Academy of Finland (294817), Helsinki University Hospital Competetive Fund, and The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim.

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Correspondence to Liisa Myllykangas.

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Mönkäre, S., Kuuluvainen, L., Kun-Rodrigues, C. et al. Whole-exome sequencing of Finnish patients with vascular cognitive impairment. Eur J Hum Genet (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41431-020-00775-9

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