DREADDs for Neuroscientists

Neuron. 2016 Feb 17;89(4):683-94. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.01.040.


To understand brain function, it is essential that we discover how cellular signaling specifies normal and pathological brain function. In this regard, chemogenetic technologies represent valuable platforms for manipulating neuronal and non-neuronal signal transduction in a cell-type-specific fashion in freely moving animals. Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADD)-based chemogenetic tools are now commonly used by neuroscientists to identify the circuitry and cellular signals that specify behavior, perceptions, emotions, innate drives, and motor functions in species ranging from flies to nonhuman primates. Here I provide a primer on DREADDs highlighting key technical and conceptual considerations and identify challenges for chemogenetics going forward.

Keywords: DREADD; chemical biology; chemogenetic; synthetic biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Design*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods*
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / agonists
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / genetics
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Translational Research, Biomedical*


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter