14-3-3 [Formula: see text]-reported early synaptic injury in Alzheimer's disease is independently mediated by sTREM2

J Neuroinflammation. 2023 Nov 24;20(1):278. doi: 10.1186/s12974-023-02962-z.


Introduction: Synaptic loss is closely associated with tau aggregation and microglia activation in later stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, synaptic damage happens early in AD at the very early stages of tau accumulation. It remains unclear whether microglia activation independently causes synaptic cleavage before tau aggregation appears.

Methods: We investigated 104 participants across the AD continuum by measuring 14-3-3 zeta/delta ([Formula: see text]) as a cerebrospinal fluid biomarker for synaptic degradation, and fluid and imaging biomarkers of tau, amyloidosis, astrogliosis, neurodegeneration, and inflammation. We performed correlation analyses in cognitively unimpaired and impaired participants and used structural equation models to estimate the impact of microglia activation on synaptic injury in different disease stages.

Results: 14-3-3 [Formula: see text] was increased in participants with amyloid pathology at the early stages of tau aggregation before hippocampal volume loss was detectable. 14-3-3 [Formula: see text] correlated with amyloidosis and tau load in all participants but only with biomarkers of neurodegeneration and memory deficits in cognitively unimpaired participants. This early synaptic damage was independently mediated by sTREM2. At later disease stages, tau and astrogliosis additionally mediated synaptic loss.

Conclusions: Our results advertise that sTREM2 is mediating synaptic injury at the early stages of tau accumulation, underlining the importance of microglia activation for AD disease propagation.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Microglia; Neuroinflammation; Synaptic loss; sTREM2.

MeSH terms

  • 14-3-3 Proteins
  • Alzheimer Disease* / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Amyloidosis*
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Gliosis
  • Humans
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biomarkers
  • tau Proteins
  • 14-3-3 Proteins
  • TREM2 protein, human