Loss-of-function TREM2 mutations strongly increase Alzheimer's disease (AD) risk. Trem2 deletion has revealed protective Trem2 functions in preclinical models of β-amyloidosis, a prominent feature of pre-diagnosis AD stages. How TREM2 influences later AD stages characterized by tau-mediated neurodegeneration is unclear. To understand Trem2 function in the context of both β-amyloid and tau pathologies, we examined Trem2 deficiency in the pR5-183 mouse model expressing mutant tau alone or in TauPS2APP mice, in which β-amyloid pathology exacerbates tau pathology and neurodegeneration. Single-cell RNA sequencing in these models revealed robust disease-associated microglia (DAM) activation in TauPS2APP mice that was amyloid-dependent and Trem2-dependent. In the presence of β-amyloid pathology, Trem2 deletion further exacerbated tau accumulation and spreading and promoted brain atrophy. Without β-amyloid pathology, Trem2 deletion did not affect these processes. Therefore, TREM2 may slow AD progression and reduce tau-driven neurodegeneration by restricting the degree to which β-amyloid facilitates the spreading of pathogenic tau.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; MRI; TREM2; disease-associated microglia; gliosis; microglia; neurodegeneration; neuroinflammation; single-cell RNA sequencing; tauopathy.
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