Vulnerability of midbrain dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the weaver mouse was studied at postnatal (P) days 8 and 90, in chosen coronal levels throughout the anteroposterior (AP) extent of the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc). Wild-type (+/+) and homozygous weaver (wv/wv) mice used were the offspring of pregnant dams injected in several cases with tritiated thymidine on embryonic days 11-15. DA neurons were identified for their tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity. Data reveal that at P8, the frequency of both +/+ and wv/wv late-generated DA cells increases from rostral to caudal SNc. No apparent DA-cell loss was observed at P8 in the mutant genotype, irrespective of the AP level considered. However, throughout the AP, there was a significant reduction in the number of these neurons at any level in 90-day-old weavers. Comparison of P8 and P90 +/+ SNc suggests that cell death is not a major aspect in the developmental regulation of normal DA neurons, although numerical cell depletion in the postnatal development of weaver SNc probably results from the amplification of a basal cell-death process, which affected all the coronal levels studied.