Previously, we showed that overexpression of triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2), a microglia-specific immune receptor, in the brain of a middle-aged (7 months old) APPswe/PS1dE9 mice could ameliorate Alzheimer's disease (AD)-related neuropathology by enhancement of microglial amyloid-β (Aβ) phagocytosis. Since AD is an age-related neurodegenerative disorder, it is critical to assess the efficacy of TREM2 overexpression in aging animals with an advanced disease stage. In vivo, we employed a lentiviral strategy to overexpress TREM2 in the brain of aging (18 months old) APPswe/PS1dE9 mice, and observed its efficacy on AD-related neuropathology and cognitive functions. Afterwards, we directly isolated microglia from middle-aged and aging APPswe/PS1dE9 mice and determined effects of TREM2 overexpression on microglial Aβ phagocytosis and Aβ-binding receptors expression in vitro. In aging APPswe/PS1dE9 mice, TREM2 overexpression has no beneficial effect on AD-related neuropathology and spatial cognitive functions. Of note, in vitro experiments showed a significant reduction of Aβ phagocytosis in microglia from aging APPswe/PS1dE9 mice, possibly attributing to the declined expression of Aβ-binding receptors. Meanwhile, this phagocytic deficit in microglia from aging APPswe/PS1dE9 mice cannot be rescued by TREM2 overexpression. Taken together, our study shows that TREM2 overexpression fails to provide neuroprotection in aging APPswe/PS1dE9 mice, possibly attributing to deficits in microglial Aβ phagocytosis at the late-stage of disease progression. These findings indicate that TREM2-mediated protection in AD is at least partially dependent on the reservation of microglial phagocytic functions, emphasizing the importance of early therapeutic interventions for this devastating disease.
Keywords: Aging; Alzheimer’s disease; Amyloid-β; Cognitive impairment; Microglia; Phagocytosis; TREM2.