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Am J Pathol. 2016 Mar;186(3):478-88. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2015.09.023. Epub 2015 Dec 24.

Dopaminergic Neurons and Brain Reward Pathways: From Neurogenesis to Circuit Assembly.

Author information

1
Neuroscience Graduate Program, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Department of Pathology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California.
2
Neuroscience Graduate Program, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Department of Pathology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Pathology Service 113B, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, California. Electronic address: eric.huang2@ucsf.edu.

Abstract

Midbrain dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta and ventral tegmental area regulate extrapyramidal movement and important cognitive functions, including motivation, reward associations, and habit learning. Dysfunctions in DA neuron circuitry have been implicated in several neuropsychiatric disorders, including addiction and schizophrenia, whereas selective degeneration of DA neurons in substantia nigra pars compacta is a key neuropathological feature in Parkinson disease. Efforts to understand these disorders have focused on dissecting the underlying causes, as well as developing therapeutic strategies to replenish dopamine deficiency. In particular, the promise of cell replacement therapies for clinical intervention has led to extensive research in the identification of mechanisms involved in DA neuron development. It is hoped that a comprehensive understanding of these mechanisms will lead to therapeutic strategies that improve the efficiency of DA neuron production, engraftment, and function. This review provides a comprehensive discussion on how Wnt/β-catenin and sonic hedgehog-Smoothened signaling mechanisms control the specification and expansion of DA progenitors and the differentiation of DA neurons. We also discuss how mechanisms involving transforming growth factor-β and transcriptional cofactor homeodomain interacting protein kinase 2 regulate the survival and maturation of DA neurons in early postnatal life. These results not only reveal fundamental mechanisms regulating DA neuron development, but also provide important insights to their potential contributions to neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases.

PMID:
26724386
PMCID:
PMC4816693
[Available on 2017-03-01]
DOI:
10.1016/j.ajpath.2015.09.023
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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