Background: TREM2 is a transmembrane receptor that is predominantly expressed by microglia in the central nervous system. Rare variants in the TREM2 gene increase the risk for late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD). Soluble TREM2 (sTREM2) resulting from shedding of the TREM2 ectodomain can be detected in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and is a surrogate measure of TREM2-mediated microglia function. CSF sTREM2 has been previously reported to increase at different clinical stages of AD, however, alterations in relation to Amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) deposition or additional pathological processes in the amyloid cascade (such as tau pathology or neurodegeneration) remain unclear. In the current cross-sectional study, we employed the biomarker-based classification framework recently proposed by the NIA-AA consensus guidelines, in combination with clinical staging, in order to examine the CSF sTREM2 alterations at early asymptomatic and symptomatic stages of AD. Methods: A cross-sectional study of 1027 participants of the Alzheimer's Disease Imaging Initiative (ADNI) cohort, including 43 subjects carrying TREM2 rare genetic variants, was conducted to measure CSF sTREM2 using a previously validated enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). ADNI participants were classified following the A/T/N framework, which we implemented based on the CSF levels of Aβ 1-42 (A), phosphorylated tau (T) and total tau as a marker of neurodegeneration (N), at different clinical stages defined by the clinical dementia rating (CDR) score. Results: CSF sTREM2 differed between TREM2 variants, whereas the p.R47H variant had higher CSF sTREM2, p.L211P had lower CSF sTREM2 than non-carriers. We found that CSF sTREM2 increased in early symptomatic stages of late-onset AD but, unexpectedly, we observed decreased CSF sTREM2 levels at the earliest asymptomatic phase when only abnormal Aβ pathology (A+) but no tau pathology or neurodegeneration (TN-), is present. Conclusions: Aβ pathology (A) and tau pathology/neurodegeneration (TN) have differing associations with CSF sTREM2. While tau-related neurodegeneration is associated with an increase in CSF sTREM2, Aβ pathology in the absence of downstream tau-related neurodegeneration is associated with a decrease in CSF sTREM2.
- Alzheimer's disease