Soluble TREM2: Innocent bystander or active player in neurological diseases?

Neurobiol Dis. 2022 Apr:165:105630. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2022.105630. Epub 2022 Jan 15.


Triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) is an innate immune receptor expressed by macrophages and microglia in the central nervous system (CNS). TREM2 has attracted a lot of interest in the past decade for its critical role in modulating microglia functions under homeostatic conditions and in neurodegenerative diseases. Genetic variation in TREM2 is sufficient to cause Nasu-Hakola disease, a rare pre-senile dementia with bone cysts, and to increase risk for Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia, and other neurodegenerative disorders. Beyond the role played by TREM2 genetic variants in these diseases, TREM2 engagement is a key step in microglia activation in response to different types of tissue injury (e.g. β-Amyloid deposition, demyelination, apoptotic cell death) leading to enhanced microglia metabolism, phagocytosis, proliferation and survival. TREM2 also exists as a soluble form (sTREM2), generated from receptor shedding or alternative splicing, which is detectable in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Genetic variation, physiological conditions and disease status impact CSF sTREM2 levels. Clinical and preclinical studies suggest that targeting and/or monitoring sTREM2 could have clinical and therapeutic implications. Despite the critical role of sTREM2 in neurologic disease, its function remains poorly understood. Here, we review the current literature on sTREM2 regarding its origin, genetic variation, and possible functions as a biomarker in neurological disorders and as a potential active player in CNS diseases and target for therapies.

Keywords: Microglia; Neurodegeneration; Neuroinflammation; TREM2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Frontotemporal Dementia* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Receptors, Immunologic / genetics
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • TREM2 protein, human