Early increase of CSF sTREM2 in Alzheimer's disease is associated with tau related-neurodegeneration but not with amyloid-β pathology

Marc Suárez-Calvet, Estrella Morenas-Rodríguez, Gernot Kleinberger, Kai Schlepckow, Miguel Ángel Araque Caballero, Nicolai Franzmeier, Anja Capell, Katrin Fellerer, Brigitte Nuscher, Erden Eren, Johannes Levin, Yuetiva Deming, Laura Piccio, Celeste M. Karch, Carlos Cruchaga, Leslie M. Shaw, John Q. Trojanowski, Michael Weiner, Michael Ewers, Christian Haass

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalMolecular neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 10 2019


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Biomarkers
  • Microglia
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Shedding
  • TREM2


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