Midbrain dopamine (mDA) neurons play a central role in reward signaling and are widely implicated in psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. To understand how mDA neurons perform these functions, it is important to understand how mDA-specific genes are regulated. However, cellular heterogeneity in the mammalian brain presents a major challenge to obtaining this understanding. To this end, we developed a virus-based approach to label and capture mDA nuclei for transcriptome (RNA-Seq), and low-input chromatin accessibility (liDNase-Seq) profiling, followed by predictive modeling to identify putative transcriptional regulators of mDA neurons. Using this method, we identified Gmeb1, a transcription factor predicted to regulate expression of Th and Dat, genes critical for dopamine synthesis and reuptake, respectively. Gmeb1 knockdown in mDA neurons resulted in downregulation of Th and Dat, as well as in severe motor deficits. This study thus identifies Gmeb1 as a master regulator of mDA gene expression and function, and provides a general method for identifying cell type-specific transcriptional regulators.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)