Genetic control of midbrain dopaminergic neuron development


Midbrain dopaminergic neurons are involved in regulating motor control, reward behavior, and cognition. Degeneration or dysfunction of midbrain dopaminergic neurons is implicated in several neuropsychiatric disorders such as Parkinson's disease, substance use disorders, depression, and schizophrenia. Understanding the developmental processes that generate midbrain dopaminergic neurons will facilitate the generation of dopaminergic neurons from stem cells for cell replacement therapies to substitute degenerating cells in Parkinson's disease patients and will forward our understanding on how functional diversity of dopaminergic neurons in the adult brain is established. Midbrain dopaminergic neurons develop in a multistep process. Following the induction of the ventral midbrain, a distinct dopaminergic progenitor domain is specified and dopaminergic progenitors undergo proliferation, neurogenesis, and differentiation. Subsequently, midbrain dopaminergic neurons acquire a mature dopaminergic phenotype, migrate to their final position and establish projections and connections to their forebrain targets. This review will discuss insights gained on the signaling network of secreted molecules, cell surface receptors, and transcription factors that regulate specification and differentiation of midbrain dopaminergic progenitors and neurons, from the induction of the ventral midbrain to the migration of dopaminergic neurons. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

Journal details

Volume 4
Issue number 2
Pages 113-134
Publication date


Type of publication

Crick labs/facilities