Throughout the ventral tegmental area (VTA), dopamine is packaged within subcellular organelles by the vesicular monoamine transporter-2 (VMAT2). Somatodendritically released dopamine in this region binds to the D2 receptor (D2R) to modulate ongoing neurotransmission. Although autoregulation of mesocortical dopaminergic neurons in the parabrachial VTA (PB-VTA) is known to be less efficacious than that of mesolimbic dopaminergic neurons in the paranigral (PN-VTA), the cellular basis for this regional heterogeneity is not known. For this reason, we used electron microscopic immunocytochemistry to determine the subcellular localization of the dopamine storage vesicles (identified by the presence of VMAT2) in relation to the D2R in these VTA subdivisions. In both regions, D2R immunoreactivity was principally located on extrasynaptic dendritic plasma membranes near excitatory-type synapses. Equivalent percentages (72 and 74%) of the D2R-labeled dendrites in each region contained VMAT2-immunoreactive tubulovesicles. Of the total VMAT2-labeled dendrites, however, a significantly lower percentage in the PB-VTA (26%) than in the PN-VTA (38%) contained D2R labeling. In contrast, a significantly higher number of VMAT2 immunogold-silver deposits was seen within individual dendrites in the PB-VTA than in PN-VTA. In both regions, D2R immunoreactivity was also detected in VMAT2-negative axon terminals that formed synapses on dendrites containing VMAT2. Our results are the first to demonstrate that within VTA neurons and their afferents the D2R is strategically positioned for activation by dopamine released from dendritic storage vesicles. These findings also suggest that the potential for D2R activation may affect the expression levels of VMAT2 in VTA dendrites.