The midbrain dopaminergic system: Anatomy and genetic variation in dopamine neuron number of inbred mouse strains

Laszlo Zaborszky, Csaba Vadasz

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48 Scopus citations


The mesotelencephalic dopamine system is genetically variable and affects motor behavior, motivation, and learning. Here we examine the genetic variation of mesencephalic DA neuron number in a quasi-congenic RQI mouse strain and its background partner and in a recombinant inbred strain with different levels of mesencephalic tyrosine hydroxylase activity (TH/MES). We used B6.Cb4i5-α6/Vad, C57BL/6By, and CXBI, which are known to express high, intermediate, and low levels of TH/MES, respectively. Unbiased stereological sampling with optical disector counting methods were employed to estimate the number of TH-positive neurons in the A8-A9-A10 cell groups. Morphometric studies on the mesencephalic dopamine cell groups indicated that male mice of the B6.Cb4i5-α6/Vad strain were endowed with a significantly lower number of TH-positive cells than CXBI mice. In all strains studied, the right retrorubral field (A8 area) had a higher number of dopamine neurons compared to the left A8 area. The results suggest an inverse relationship between TH/MES and number of dopamine neurons in the A9-A10 cell groups and significant lateral asymmetry in the A8 cell group. A detailed anatomical atlas of the mesencephalic A8-A9-A10 dopaminergic cell groups in the mouse is also presented to facilitate the assignment of TH-positive neurons to specific cell groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-59
Number of pages13
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


  • Complex trait
  • Dopamine neuron
  • Mesencephalon
  • QTL introgression
  • Stereology
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase


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