Alzheimer's-associated PLCγ2 is a signaling node required for both TREM2 function and the inflammatory response in human microglia

Nat Neurosci. 2020 Jun 8. doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-0650-6. Online ahead of print.


Human genetic data indicate that microglial dysfunction contributes to the pathology of Alzheimer's disease (AD), exemplified by the identification of coding variants in triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) and, more recently, in PLCG2, a phospholipase-encoding gene expressed in microglia. Although studies in mouse models have implicated specific Trem2-dependent microglial functions in AD, the underlying molecular mechanisms and translatability to human disease remain poorly defined. In this study, we used genetically engineered human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived microglia-like cells to show that TREM2 signals through PLCγ2 to mediate cell survival, phagocytosis, processing of neuronal debris, and lipid metabolism. Loss of TREM2 or PLCγ2 signaling leads to a shared signature of transcriptional dysregulation that underlies these phenotypes. Independent of TREM2, PLCγ2 also signals downstream of Toll-like receptors to mediate inflammatory responses. Therefore, PLCγ2 activity regulates divergent microglial functions via distinct TREM2-dependent and -independent signaling and might be involved in the transition to a microglial state associated with neurodegenerative disease.