Histochemical Characterization of the Dorsal Raphe-Periaqueductal Grey Dopamine Transporter Neurons Projecting to the Extended Amygdala

eNeuro. 2022 May 31;9(3):ENEURO.0121-22.2022. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0121-22.2022. Print 2022 May-Jun.


The dorsal raphe (DR) nucleus contains many tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive neurons which are regarded as dopaminergic (DA) neurons. These DA neurons in the DR and periaqueductal gray (PAG) region (DADR-PAG neurons) are a subgroup of the A10 cluster, which is known to be heterogeneous. This DA population projects to the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and has been reported to modulate various affective behaviors. To characterize, the histochemical features of DADR-PAG neurons projecting to the CeA and BNST in mice, the current study combined retrograde labeling with Fluoro-Gold (FG) and histological techniques, focusing on TH, dopamine transporter (DAT), vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), and vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGlut2). To identify putative DA neurons, DAT-Cre::Ai14 mice were used. It was observed that DATDR-PAG neurons consisted of the following two subpopulations: TH+/VIP- and TH-/VIP+ neurons. The DAT+/TH-/VIP+ subpopulation would be non-DA noncanonical DAT neurons. Anterograde labeling of DATDR-PAG neurons with AAV in DAT-Cre mice revealed that the fibers exclusively innervated the lateral part of the CeA and the oval nucleus of the BNST. Retrograde labeling with FG injections into the CeA or BNST revealed that the two subpopulations similarly innervated these regions. Furthermore, using VGlut2-Cre::Ai14 mice, it was turned out that the TH-/VIP+ subpopulations innervating both CeA and BNST were VGlut2-positive neurons. These two subpopulations of DATDR-PAG neurons, TH+/VIP- and TH-/VIP+, might differentially interfere with the extended amygdala, thereby modulating affective behaviors.

Keywords: amygdala; bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; dopamine; dopamine transporter; dorsal raphe; vasoactive intestinal peptide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism
  • Dorsal Raphe Nucleus* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Periaqueductal Gray* / metabolism
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide


  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase