The protein triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-2 (TREM2) is an immunomodulatory receptor with a central role in myeloid cell activation and survival. In recent years, the importance of TREM2 has been highlighted by the identification of coding variants that increase risk for Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Animal studies have further shown the importance of TREM2 in neurodegenerative and other inflammatory disease models including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. A mechanistic understanding of TREM2 function remains elusive, however, due in part to the absence of conclusive information regarding the identity of endogenous TREM2 ligands. While many TREM2 ligands have been proposed, their physiological role and mechanism of engagement remain to be determined. In this review, we highlight the suggested roles of TREM2 in these diseases and the recent advances in our understanding of TREM2 and discuss putative TREM2–ligand interactions and their potential roles in signaling during health and disease. We develop a model based on the TREM2 structure to explain how different TREM2 ligands might interact with the receptor and how disease risk variants may alter ligand interactions. Finally, we propose future experimental directions to establish the role and importance of these different interactions on TREM2 function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1607-1629
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2 2017


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • immune signaling
  • inflammation
  • microglia
  • neurodegeneration


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