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Background: Triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) is expressed in the brain exclusively on microglia and genetic variants are linked to neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Nasu Hakola Disease (NHD). The Trem2 variant R47H, confers substantially elevated risk of developing late onset Alzheimer’s disease, while NHD-linked Trem2 variants like Y38C, are associated with development of early onset dementia with white matter pathology. However, it is not known how these Trem2 species, predisposes individuals to presenile dementia. Methods: To investigate if Trem2 Y38C or loss of Trem2 alters neuronal function we generated a novel mouse model to introduce the NHD Trem2 Y38C variant in murine Trem2 using CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Trem2Y38C/Y38C and Trem2−/− mice were assessed for Trem2 expression, differentially expressed genes, synaptic protein levels and synaptic plasticity using biochemical, electrophysiological and transcriptomic approaches. Results: While mice harboring the Trem2 Y38C exhibited normal expression levels of TREM2, the pathological outcomes phenocopied Trem2−/− mice at 6 months. Transcriptomic analysis revealed altered expression of neuronal and oligodendrocytes/myelin genes. We observed regional decreases in synaptic protein levels, with the most affected synapses in the hippocampus. These alterations were associated with reduced synaptic plasticity. Conclusion: Our findings provide in vivo evidence that Trem2 Y38C disrupts normal TREM2 functions. Trem2Y38C/Y38C and Trem2−/− mice demonstrated altered gene expression, changes in microglia morphology, loss of synaptic proteins and reduced hippocampal synaptic plasticity at 6 months in absence of any pathological triggers like amyloid. This suggests TREM2 impacts neuronal functions providing molecular insights on the predisposition of individuals with TREM2 variants resulting in presenile dementia.
Jadhav, V. S., Lin, P. B. C., Pennington, T., Di Prisco, G. V., Jannu, A. J., Xu, G., … Lamb, B. T. (2020). Trem2 Y38C mutation and loss of Trem2 impairs neuronal synapses in adult mice. Molecular Neurodegeneration, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13024-020-00409-0