Midbrain dopaminergic (mDA) neurons migrate to form the laterally-located substantia nigra pars compacta (SN) and medially-located ventral tegmental area (VTA), but little is known about the underlying cellular and molecular processes. Here we visualize the dynamic cell morphologies of tangentially migrating SN-mDA neurons in 3D and identify two distinct migration modes. Slow migration is the default mode in SN-mDA neurons, while fast, laterally-directed migration occurs infrequently and is strongly associated with bipolar cell morphology. Tangential migration of SN-mDA neurons is altered in absence of Reelin signaling, but it is unclear whether Reelin acts directly on migrating SN-mDA neurons and how it affects their cell morphology and migratory behavior. By specifically inactivating Reelin signaling in mDA neurons we demonstrate its direct role in SN-mDA tangential migration. Reelin promotes laterally-biased movements in mDA neurons during their slow migration mode, stabilizes leading process morphology and increases the probability of fast, laterally-directed migration.
Keywords: Dab1; cell morphology; cell tracking; developmental biology; dopaminergic system; mouse; neuroscience; organotypic slice cultures; time-lapse imaging.
© 2019, Vaswani et al.