Background: Triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-2 (TREM2) is a microglial surface receptor involved in phagocytosis. Clearance of apoptotic debris after stroke represents an important mechanism to re-attain tissue homeostasis and thereby ensure functional recovery. The role of TREM2 following stroke is currently unclear.
Methods and results: As an experimental stroke model, the middle cerebral artery of mice was occluded for 30 minutes with a range of reperfusion times (duration of reperfusion: 6 h/12 h/24 h/2 d/7 d/28 d). Quantitative PCR (qPCR) revealed a greatly increased transcription of TREM2 after stroke. We subsequently analyzed the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and their receptors in TREM2-knockout (TREM2-KO) mice via qPCR. Microglial activation (CD68, Iba1) and CD3-positive T-cell invasion were analyzed via qPCR and immunohistochemistry. Functional consequences of TREM2 knockout were assessed by infarct volumetry. The acute inflammatory response (12 h reperfusion) was very similar between TREM2-KO mice and their littermate controls. However, in the sub-acute phase (7 d reperfusion) following stroke, TREM2-KO mice showed a decreased transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines TNFα, IL-1α and IL-1β, associated with a reduced microglial activity (CD68, Iba1). Furthermore, TREM2-KO mice showed a reduced transcription of chemokines CCL2 (MCP1), CCL3 (MIP1α) and the chemokine receptor CX3CR1, followed by a diminished invasion of CD3-positive T-cells. No effect on the lesion size was observed.
Conclusions: Although we initially expected an exaggerated pro-inflammatory response following ablation of TREM2, our data support a contradictory scenario that the sub-acute inflammatory reaction after stroke is attenuated in TREM2-KO mice. We therefore conclude that TREM2 appears to sustain a distinct inflammatory response after stroke.