Classification of Midbrain Dopamine Neurons Using Single-Cell Gene Expression Profiling Approaches

Trends Neurosci. 2020 Mar;43(3):155-169. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2020.01.004. Epub 2020 Feb 11.


Dysfunctional dopamine (DA) signaling has been associated with a broad spectrum of neuropsychiatric disorders, prompting investigations into how midbrain DA neuron heterogeneity may underpin this variety of behavioral symptoms. Emerging literature indeed points to functional heterogeneity even within anatomically defined DA clusters. Recognizing the need for a systematic classification scheme, several groups have used single-cell profiling to catalog DA neurons based on their gene expression profiles. We aim here not only to synthesize points of congruence but also to highlight key differences between the molecular classification schemes derived from these studies. In doing so, we hope to provide a common framework that will facilitate investigations into the functions of DA neuron subtypes in the healthy and diseased brain.

Keywords: cell type; dopaminergic system; intersectional; molecular diversity; neuroanatomy; single-cell RNA-seq.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Dopamine
  • Dopaminergic Neurons*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Mesencephalon*


  • Dopamine