Microglia, Trem2, and Neurodegeneration

Qian Shi, Raul A. Gutierrez, Manzoor A. Bhat

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Microglia are a specialized type of neuroimmune cells that undergo morphological and molecular changes through multiple signaling pathways in response to pathological protein aggregates, neuronal death, tissue injury, or infections. Microglia express Trem2, which serves as a receptor for a multitude of ligands enhancing their phagocytic activity. Trem2 has emerged as a critical modulator of microglial activity, especially in many neurodegenerative disorders. Human TREM2 mutations are associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative diseases. Trem2 plays dual roles in neuroinflammation and more specifically in disease-associated microglia. Most recent developments on the molecular mechanisms of Trem2, emphasizing its role in uptake and clearance of amyloid β (Aβ) aggregates and other tissue debris to help protect and preserve the brain, are encouraging. Although Trem2 normally stimulates defense mechanisms, its dysregulation can intensify inflammation, which poses major therapeutic challenges. Recent therapeutic approaches targeting Trem2 via agonistic antibodies and gene therapy methodologies present possible avenues for reducing the burden of neurodegenerative diseases. This review highlights the promise of Trem2 as a therapeutic target, especially for Aβ-associated AD, and calls for more mechanistic investigations to understand the context-specific role of microglial Trem2 in developing effective therapies against neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer disease
  • microglia
  • mTOR
  • neurodegeneration
  • Trem2
  • β-amyloid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology


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