Previous [3H]thymidine studies in Nissl-stained sections in rats established that the substantia nigra pars compacta and the ventral tegmental area originate sequentially according to an anterolateral to posteromedial neurogenetic gradient. We investigated whether that same pattern is found in mice in the dopaminergic neurons in each of these structures. Using tyrosine hydroxylase immunostaining combined with [3H]thymidine autoradiography, the time of origin of dopaminergic midbrain neurons in the retrorubral field, the substantia nigra pars compacta, the ventral tegmental area, and the interfascicular nucleus was determined in postnatal day 20 mice. The dams of the experimental animals were injected with [3H]thymidine on embryonic days (E) 11-E12, E12-E13, E13-E14, and E14-E15. The time of origin profiles for each group indicated significant differences between populations. The retrorubral field and the substantia nigra pars compacta arose nearly simultaneously and contained the highest proportion of neurons, 49 to 37%, generated on or before E11. Progressively fewer early-generated neurons were found in the ventral tegmental area (20%), and the interfascicular nucleus (8.5%). In addition, anterior dorsolateral neurons in the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area were more likely to be generated early than the posterior ventromedial neurons. These findings indicate that mouse and rat brains have nearly identical developmental patterns in the midbrain, and neurogenetic gradients in dopaminergic neurons are similar to those found in Nissl studies in rats.