Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) is an inherited condition whose key features include recurrent subcortical ischemic events, migraine attacks and vascular dementia in association with diffuse white-matter abnormalities seen on neuroimaging. Pathologic examination shows multiple small deep cerebral infarcts, a leukoencephalopathy and a nonatherosclerotic nonamyloid angiopathy involving mainly the media of small cerebral arteries. To progress in understanding the pathophysiological mechanisms of this condition, we undertook the identification of the mutated gene. We mapped the CADASIL gene on chromosome 19p13.1. More than 120 families have been referred to our lab. Genetic linkage analysis of 33 of these families allowed us to reduce the size of the genetic interval to less than 1 cM and to demonstrate the genetic homogeneity of this condition. In the absence of any candidate gene, we undertook positional cloning of this gene. We identified, within the CADASIL critical region, the human Notch3 gene, whose sequence analysis revealed deleterious mutations in CADASIL families co-segregating with the affected phenotype. These data establish that this gene causes CADASIL. Identification of the CADASIL gene will provide a valuable diagnostic tool for clinicians and could be used to estimate the prevalence of this underdiagnosed condition. It should help in the understanding of pathophysiological mechanisms of CADASIL and vascular dementia.