Cre-driven optogenetics in the heterogeneous genetic panorama of the VTA

Trends Neurosci. 2015 Jun;38(6):375-86. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2015.04.005. Epub 2015 May 9.


The selectivity of optogenetics commonly relies on genetic promoters to manipulate specific populations of neurons through the use of Cre-driver lines. All studies performed in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) so far have utilized promoters present in groups of cells that release dopamine (DA), GABA, or glutamate. However, neurons that co-release neurotransmitters and variabilities within groups of neurons that release the same neurotransmitter present challenges when evaluating the results. Further complexity is introduced by ectopic expression patterns often occurring in transgenic Cre-drivers. New perspectives could be unfolded by identifying and selecting different types of promoter for driving the Cre recombinase. Here, we discuss some promising candidates and highlight the advantages or disadvantages of different methods for creating novel transgenic lines.

Keywords: GABA; aversion; dopamine; glutamate; reward; transgenics; ventral tegmental area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Integrases / genetics*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Optogenetics / methods*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology*


  • Cre recombinase
  • Integrases