In the mammalian central nervous system (CNS) an important contingent of dopaminergic neurons are localized in the substantia nigra and in the ventral tegmental area of the ventral midbrain. They constitute an anatomically and functionally heterogeneous group of cells involved in a variety of regulatory mechanisms, from locomotion to emotional/motivational behavior. Midbrain dopaminergic neuron (mDA) primary cultures represent a useful tool to study molecular mechanisms involved in their development and maintenance. Considerable information has been gathered on the mDA neurons development and maturation in vivo, as well as on the molecular features of mDA primary cultures. Here we investigated in detail the gene expression differences between the tissue of origin and ventral midbrain primary cultures enriched in mDA neurons, using microarray technique. We integrated the results based on different re-annotations of the microarray probes. By using knowledge-based gene network techniques and promoter sequence analysis, we also uncovered mechanisms that might regulate the expression of CNS genes involved in the definition of the identity of specific cell types in the ventral midbrain. We integrate bioinformatics and functional genomics, together with developmental neurobiology. Moreover, we propose guidelines for the computational analysis of microarray gene expression data. Our findings help to clarify some molecular aspects of the development and differentiation of DA neurons within the midbrain.