David G Besselsen
Adjunct Associate Professor, Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences
Associate Research Scientist, BIO5 Institute
Member of the Graduate Faculty
Veterinary Specialist
Primary Department
(520) 626-6702
Research Interest
David Besselsen, DVM, PhD, is the Director of University Animal Care (UAC), the Attending Veterinarian. He is a board-certified veterinary specialist (Diplomate) in the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Pathology, and served as Interim Dean for the College of Veterinary Medicine from 2017-2019. In addition to his administrative and service responsibilities, Dr. Besselsen is actively engaged in research through the provision of comparative pathology support for rodent models and oversight of the gnotobiotic mouse service. He has directed UAC Pathology Services since his arrival in 1995 and has over 80 peer-reviewed publications. UAC Pathology Services provides diagnostic and comparative pathology support for the research animals and research animal facilities at the University of Arizona. Capabilities include hematology, blood chemistry, necropsy, histologic preparation and interpretation, and others.


Watson, J. M., Marion, S. L., Rice, P. F., Bentley, D. L., Besselsen, D. G., Utzinger, U., Hoyer, P. B., & Barton, J. K. (2014). In vivo time-serial multi-modality optical imaging in a mouse model of ovarian tumorigenesis. Cancer Biology and Therapy, 15(1), 42-60.
BIO5 Collaborators
Jennifer Kehlet Barton, David G Besselsen


Identification of the early microscopic changes associated with ovarian cancer may lead to development of a diagnostic test for high-risk women. In this study we use optical coherence tomography (OCT) and multiphoton microscopy (MPM) (collecting both two photon excited fluorescence [TPEF] and second harmonic generation [SH G]) to image mouse ovaries in vivo at multiple time points. We demonstrate the feasibility of imaging mouse ovaries in vivo during a longterm survival study and identify microscopic changes associated with early tumor development. These changes include alterations in tissue microstructure, as seen by OCT, alterations in cellular fluorescence and morphology, as seen by TPEF, and remodeling of collagen structure, as seen by SH G. These results suggest that a combined OCT-MPM system may be useful for early detection of ovarian cancer. © 2014 Landes Bioscience.

Barton, J., Hariri, L. P., Qiu, Z., Tumlinson, A. R., Besselsen, D. G., Gerner, E. W., Ignatenko, N. A., Povazay, B., Hermann, B., Sattmann, H., McNally, J., Unterhuber, A., Drexler, W., & Barton, J. K. (2007). Serial endoscopy in azoxymethane treated mice using ultra-high resolution optical coherence tomography. Cancer biology & therapy, 6(11).
BIO5 Collaborators
Jennifer Kehlet Barton, David G Besselsen

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a minimally invasive, depth-resolved imaging tool that can be implemented in a small diameter endoscope for imaging mouse models of colorectal cancer (CRC). In this study, we utilized ultrahigh resolution (UHR) OCT to serially image the lower colon of azoxymethane (AOM) treated A/J mouse models of CRC in order to monitor the progression of neoplastic transformations and determine if OCT is capable of identifying early disease.

Barton, J., Hariri, L. P., Tumlinson, A. R., Wade, N. H., Besselsen, D. G., Utzinger, U., Gerner, E. W., & Barton, J. K. (2007). Ex vivo optical coherence tomography and laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy imaging of murine gastrointestinal tract. Comparative medicine, 57(2).
BIO5 Collaborators
Jennifer Kehlet Barton, David G Besselsen

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) and laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) spectroscopy each have clinical potential in identifying human gastrointestinal (GI) pathologies, yet their diagnostic capability in mouse models is unknown. In this study, we combined the 2 modalities to survey the GI tract of a variety of mouse strains and ages and to sample dysplasias and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) of the intestines. Segments (length, 2.5 cm) of duodenum and lower colon and the entire esophagus were imaged ex-vivo with combined OCT and LIE We evaluated 30 normal mice (A/J and 10- and 21-wk-old and retired breeder C57BL/6J) and 10 mice each of 2 strains modeling colon cancer and IBD (Apc(Min) and IL2-deficient mice, respectively). Histology was used to classify tissue regions as normal, Peyer patch, dysplasia, adenoma, or IBD. Features in corresponding OCT images were analyzed. Spectra from each category were averaged and compared via Student t tests. OCT provided structural information that led to identification of the imaging characteristics of healthy mouse GI. With histology as the 'gold standard,' we developed preliminary image criteria for early disease in the form of adenomas, dysplasias, and IBD. LIF characterized the endogenous fluorescence of mouse GI tract, with spectral features corresponding to collagen, NADH, and hemoglobin. In the IBD sample, LIF emission spectra displayed potentially diagnostic peaks at 635 and 670 nm, which we attributed to increased porphyrin production by bacteria associated with IBD. OCT and LIF appear to be useful and complementary modalities for ex vivo imaging of mouse GI tissues.

Besselsen, D., Christie, R. D., Marcus, E. C., Wagner, A. M., & Besselsen, D. G. (2010). Experimental infection of mice with hamster parvovirus: evidence for interspecies transmission of mouse parvovirus 3. Comparative medicine, 60(2).

Hamster parvovirus (HaPV) was isolated 2 decades ago from hamsters with clinical signs similar to those induced in hamsters experimentally infected with other rodent parvoviruses. Genetically, HaPV is most closely related to mouse parvovirus (MPV), which induces subclinical infection in mice. A novel MPV strain, MPV3, was detected recently in naturally infected mice, and genomic sequence analysis indicates that MPV3 is almost identical to HaPV. The goal of the present studies was to examine the infectivity of HaPV in mice. Neonatal and weanling mice of several mouse strains were inoculated with HaPV. Tissues, excretions, and sera were harvested at 1, 2, 4, and 8 wk after inoculation and evaluated by quantitative PCR and serologic assays specific for HaPV. Quantitative PCR detected viral DNA quantities that greatly exceeded the quantity of virus in inocula in multiple tissues of infected mice. Seroconversion to both nonstructural and structural viral proteins was detected in most immunocompetent mice 2 or more weeks after inoculation with HaPV. In neonatal SCID mice, viral transcripts were detected in lymphoid tissues by RT-PCR and viral DNA was detected in feces by quantitative PCR at 8 wk after inoculation. No clinical signs, gross, or histologic lesions were observed. These findings are similar to those observed in mice infected with MPV. These data support the hypothesis that HaPV and MPV3 are likely variants of the same viral species, for which the mouse is the natural rodent host with rare interspecies transmission to the hamster.

Beilke, L. D., Besselsen, D. G., Cheng, Q., Kulkarni, S., Slitt, A. L., & Cherrington, N. J. (2008). Minimal role of hepatic transporters in the hepatoprotection against LCA-induced intrahepatic cholestasis. Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology, 102(1), 196-204.
BIO5 Collaborators
David G Besselsen, Nathan J Cherrington

The multidrug resistance-associated proteins (Mrps) are a family of adenosine triphosphate-dependent transporters that facilitate the movement of various compounds, including bile acids, out of hepatocytes. The current study was conducted to determine whether induction of these transporters alters bile acid disposition as a means of hepatoprotection during bile acid-induced cholestasis. Lithocholic acid (LCA) was used to induce intrahepatic cholestasis. C57BL/6 mice were pretreated with corn oil (CO) or known transporter inducers, phenobarbital (PB), oltipraz (OPZ), or TCPOBOP (TC) for 3 days prior to cotreatment with LCA and inducer for 4 days. Histopathology revealed that PB and TC pretreatments provide a protective effect from LCA-induced toxicity, whereas OPZ pretreatment did not. Both PB/LCA and TC/LCA cotreatment groups also had significantly lower alanine aminotransferase values than the LCA-only group. In TC/LCA cotreated mice compared with LCA only, messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of uptake transporters Ntcp and Oatp4 was significantly increased, as were sinusoidal efflux transporters Mrp3 and Mrp4. Although in PB/LCA cotreated mice, the only significant change compared with LCA-only treatment was an increase in uptake transporter Oatp4. Oatp1 was reduced in all groups compared with CO controls. No significant changes in mRNA expression were observed in Oatp2, Bsep, Mrp2, Bcrp, Mrp1, Mrp5, or Mrp6. Mrp4 protein expression was induced in the OPZ/LCA and TC/LCA cotreated groups, whereas Mrp3 protein levels remained unchanged between groups. Protein expression of Mrp1 and Mrp5 was increased in the unprotected LCA-only and OPZ/LCA mice. Thus, transporter expression did not correlate with histologic hepatoprotection, however, there was a correlation between hepatoprotection and significantly reduced total liver bile acids in the PB/LCA and TC/LCA cotreated mice compared with LCA only. In conclusion, changes in transporter expression did not correlate with hepatoprotection, and therefore, transport may not play a critical role in the observed hepatoprotection from LCA-induced cholestasis in the C57BL/6 mouse.