TREM2 gene expression associations with Alzheimer's disease neuropathology are region-specific: implications for cortical versus subcortical microglia

Acta Neuropathol. 2023 Jun;145(6):733-747. doi: 10.1007/s00401-023-02564-2. Epub 2023 Mar 25.


Previous post-mortem assessments of TREM2 expression and its association with brain pathologies have been limited by sample size. This study sought to correlate region-specific TREM2 mRNA expression with diverse neuropathological measures at autopsy using a large sample size (N = 945) of bulk RNA sequencing data from the Religious Orders Study and Rush Memory and Aging Project (ROS/MAP). TREM2 gene expression of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and caudate nucleus was assessed with respect to core pathology of Alzheimer's disease (amyloid-β, and tau), cerebrovascular pathology (cerebral infarcts, arteriolosclerosis, atherosclerosis, and cerebral amyloid angiopathy), microglial activation (proportion of activated microglia), and cognitive performance. We found that cortical TREM2 levels were positively related to AD diagnosis, cognitive decline, and amyloid-β neuropathology but were not related to the proportion of activated microglia. In contrast, caudate TREM2 levels were not related to AD pathology, cognition, or diagnosis, but were positively related to the proportion of activated microglia in the same region. Diagnosis-stratified results revealed caudate TREM2 levels were inversely related to AD neuropathology and positively related to microglial activation and longitudinal cognitive performance in AD cases. These results highlight the notable changes in TREM2 transcript abundance in AD and suggest that its pathological associations are brain-region-dependent.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Amyloid-β; Microglia; TREM2.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Nervous System Diseases* / pathology
  • Receptors, Immunologic / genetics
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • TREM2 protein, human
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, Immunologic