Aminophospholipids are signal-transducing TREM2 ligands on apoptotic cells

Sci Rep. 2019 May 17;9(1):7508. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-43535-6.


Variants of triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) are associated with an increased incidence of Alzheimer's disease, as well as other neurodegenerative disorders. Using a newly developed, highly sensitive reporter cell model, consisting of Jurkat T cells stably overexpressing a reporter gene and a gene encoding TREM2DAP12 fusion protein, we show here that TREM2-dependent signal transduction in response to apoptotic Neuro2a cells is mediated by aminophospholipid ligands, phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylethanolamine, which are not exposed on the intact cell surface, but become exposed upon apoptosis. We also show that signal-transducing TREM2 ligands different from aminophospholipids, which appear to be derived from neurons, might be present in membrane fractions of mouse cerebral cortex. These results may suggest that TREM2 regulates microglial function by transducing intracellular signals from aminophospholipids on apoptotic cells, as well as unidentified ligands in the membranes of the cerebral cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microglia / cytology
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Phospholipids / metabolism*
  • RAW 264.7 Cells
  • Receptors, Immunologic / genetics
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Phospholipids
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • TREM2 protein, human
  • TYROBP protein, human
  • Trem2 protein, mouse