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Trem2 H157Y increases soluble TREM2 production and reduces amyloid pathology.

BACKGROUND: The rare p.H157Y variant of TREM2 (Triggering Receptor Expressed on Myeloid Cells 2) was found to increase Alzheimer's disease (AD) risk. This mutation is located at the cleavage site of TREM2 extracellular domain. Ectopic expression of TREM2-H157Y in HEK293 cells resulted in increased TREM2 shedding. However, the physiological outcomes of the TREM2 H157Y mutation remain unknown in the absence and presence of AD related pathologies.

METHODS: We generated a novel Trem2 H157Y knock-in mouse model through CRISPR/Cas9 technology and investigated the effects of Trem2 H157Y on TREM2 proteolytic processing, synaptic function, and AD-related amyloid pathologies by conducting biochemical assays, targeted mass spectrometry analysis of TREM2, hippocampal electrophysiology, immunofluorescent staining, in vivo micro-dialysis, and cortical bulk RNA sequencing.

RESULTS: Consistent with previous in vitro findings, Trem2 H157Y increases TREM2 shedding with elevated soluble TREM2 levels in the brain and serum. Moreover, Trem2 H157Y enhances synaptic plasticity without affecting microglial density and morphology, or TREM2 signaling. In the presence of amyloid pathology, Trem2 H157Y accelerates amyloid-β (Aβ) clearance and reduces amyloid burden, dystrophic neurites, and gliosis in two independent founder lines. Targeted mass spectrometry analysis of TREM2 revealed higher ratios of soluble to full-length TREM2-H157Y compared to wild-type TREM2, indicating that the H157Y mutation promotes TREM2 shedding in the presence of Aβ. TREM2 signaling was further found reduced in Trem2 H157Y homozygous mice. Transcriptomic profiling revealed that Trem2 H157Y downregulates neuroinflammation-related genes and an immune module correlated with the amyloid pathology.

CONCLUSION: Taken together, our findings suggest beneficial effects of the Trem2 H157Y mutation in synaptic function and in mitigating amyloid pathology. Considering the genetic association of TREM2 p.H157Y with AD risk, we speculate TREM2 H157Y in humans might increase AD risk through an amyloid-independent pathway, such as its effects on tauopathy and neurodegeneration which merit further investigation.

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