Combining rabies-virus tracing, optical clearing (CLARITY), and whole-brain light-sheet imaging, we mapped the monosynaptic inputs to midbrain dopamine neurons projecting to different targets (different parts of the striatum, cortex, amygdala, etc) in mice. We found that most populations of dopamine neurons receive a similar set of inputs rather than forming strong reciprocal connections with their target areas. A common feature among most populations of dopamine neurons was the existence of dense 'clusters' of inputs within the ventral striatum. However, we found that dopamine neurons projecting to the posterior striatum were outliers, receiving relatively few inputs from the ventral striatum and instead receiving more inputs from the globus pallidus, subthalamic nucleus, and zona incerta. These results lay a foundation for understanding the input/output structure of the midbrain dopamine circuit and demonstrate that dopamine neurons projecting to the posterior striatum constitute a unique class of dopamine neurons regulated by different inputs.
Keywords: anatomy; dopamine; input; monosynaptic; mouse; neuroscience; rabies virus; striatum.