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Nat Neurosci. 2018 Sep;21(9):1260-1271. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0203-4. Epub 2018 Aug 13.

Mapping projections of molecularly defined dopamine neuron subtypes using intersectional genetic approaches.

Author information

1
Department of Neurology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.
2
Department of Physiology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.
3
Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and of Bioengineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.
4
Department of Neurobiology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA.
5
Department of Neurology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA. r-awatramani@northwestern.edu.

Abstract

Midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons have diverse functions that can in part be explained by their heterogeneity. Although molecularly distinct subtypes of DA neurons have been identified by single-cell gene expression profiling, fundamental features such as their projection patterns have not been elucidated. Progress in this regard has been hindered by the lack of genetic tools for studying DA neuron subtypes. Here we develop intersectional genetic labeling strategies, based on combinatorial gene expression, to map the projections of molecularly defined DA neuron subtypes. We reveal distinct genetically defined dopaminergic pathways arising from the substantia nigra pars compacta and from the ventral tegmental area that innervate specific regions of the caudate putamen, nucleus accumbens and amygdala. Together, the genetic toolbox and DA neuron subtype projections presented here constitute a resource that will accelerate the investigation of this clinically significant neurotransmitter system.

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