Remotely Produced and Axon-Derived Netrin-1 Instructs GABAergic Neuron Migration and Dopaminergic Substantia Nigra Development

Neuron. 2020 Aug 19;107(4):684-702.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.05.037. Epub 2020 Jun 19.


The midbrain dopamine (mDA) system is composed of molecularly and functionally distinct neuron subtypes that mediate specific behaviors and show select disease vulnerability, including in Parkinson's disease. Despite progress in identifying mDA neuron subtypes, how these neuronal subsets develop and organize into functional brain structures remains poorly understood. Here we generate and use an intersectional genetic platform, Pitx3-ITC, to dissect the mechanisms of substantia nigra (SN) development and implicate the guidance molecule Netrin-1 in the migration and positioning of mDA neuron subtypes in the SN. Unexpectedly, we show that Netrin-1, produced in the forebrain and provided to the midbrain through axon projections, instructs the migration of GABAergic neurons into the ventral SN. This migration is required to confine mDA neurons to the dorsal SN. These data demonstrate that neuron migration can be controlled by remotely produced and axon-derived secreted guidance cues, a principle that is likely to apply more generally.

Keywords: GABAergic neuron; Netrin-1; development; dopamine neuron; fluorescent light sheet microscopy; guidance cue; intersectional genetics; migration; neuronal subtype; substantia nigra.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / cytology
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • GABAergic Neurons / cytology
  • GABAergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Netrin-1 / metabolism*
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism*
  • Substantia Nigra / cytology
  • Substantia Nigra / metabolism*


  • Netrin-1