Thomas P Davis

Thomas P Davis

Professor, Pharmacology
Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology
Professor, Neuroscience - GIDP
Professor, Physiological Sciences - GIDP
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(951) 858-5720

Research Interest

Thomas Davis, PhD, and his lab continue its long-term CNS biodistribution research program, funded by NIH since 1981, by studying the mechanisms involved in delivering drugs across the blood-brain barrier to the C.N.S. during pathological disease states. Recently, Dr. Davis and his lab discovered specifica drug transporters which can be targeted to enhance delivery. They are also interested in studying the effect of hypoxia/aglycemia/inflammatory pain on endothelial cell permeability and structure at the blood-brain barrier. Dr. Davis has recently shown that short-term hypoxia/aglycemia leads to significant alterations in permeability which can be reversed by specific calcium channel antagonists. This work has significant consequences to the study of stroke. Additionally, he has discovered that peripheral pain has significant effects on BBB tight junction protein cytoarchitecture leading to variations in the delivery of analgesics to the CNS.


Davis, T., Brooks, T. A., Ocheltree, S. M., Seelbach, M. J., Charles, R. A., Nametz, N., Egleton, R. D., & Davis, T. P. (2006). Biphasic cytoarchitecture and functional changes in the BBB induced by chronic inflammatory pain. Brain research, 1120(1).

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a dynamic system which maintains brain homeostasis and limits CNS penetration via interactions of transmembrane and intracellular proteins. Inflammatory pain (IP) is a condition underlying several diseases with known BBB perturbations, including stroke, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's. Exploring the underlying pathology of chronic IP, we demonstrated alterations in BBB paracellular permeability with correlating changes in tight junction (TJ) proteins: occludin and claudin-5. The present study examines the IP-induced molecular changes leading to a loss in functional BBB integrity. IP was induced by injection of Complete Freund's Adjuvant (CFA) into the plantar surface of the right hindpaw of female Sprague-Dawley rats. Inflammation and hyperalgesia were confirmed, and BBB paracellular permeability was assessed by in situ brain perfusion of [14C]sucrose (paracellular diffusion marker). The permeability of the BBB was significantly increased at 24 and 72 h post-CFA. Analysis of the TJ proteins, which control the paracellular pathway, demonstrated decreased claudin-5 expression at 24 h, and an increase at 48 and 72 h post-injection. Occludin expression was significantly decreased 72 h post-CFA. Expression of junction adhesion molecule-1 (JAM-1) increased 48 h and decreased by 72 h post-CFA. Confocal microscopy demonstrated continuous expression of both occludin and JAM-1, each co-localizing with ZO-1. The increased claudin-5 expression was not limited to the junction. These results provide evidence that chronic IP causes dramatic alterations in specific cytoarchitectural proteins and demonstrate alterations in molecular properties during CFA, resulting in significant changes in BBB paracellular permeability.

Davis, T., McCaffrey, G., Willis, C. L., Staatz, W. D., Nametz, N., Quigley, C. A., Hom, S., Lochhead, J. J., & Davis, T. P. (2009). Occludin oligomeric assemblies at tight junctions of the blood-brain barrier are altered by hypoxia and reoxygenation stress. Journal of neurochemistry, 110(1).

Hypoxic (low oxygen) and reperfusion (post-hypoxic reoxygenation) phases of stroke promote an increase in microvascular permeability at tight junctions (TJs) of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) that may lead to cerebral edema. To investigate the effect of hypoxia (Hx) and reoxygenation on oligomeric assemblies of the transmembrane TJ protein occludin, rats were subjected to either normoxia (Nx, 21% O(2), 60 min), Hx (6% O(2), 60 min), or hypoxia/reoxygenation (H/R, 6% O(2), 60 min followed by 21% O(2), 10 min). After treatment, cerebral microvessels were isolated, fractionated by detergent-free density gradient centrifugation, and occludin oligomeric assemblies associated with plasma membrane lipid rafts were solubilized by perfluoro-octanoic acid (PFO) exclusively as high molecular weight protein complexes. Analysis by non-reducing and reducing sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis/western blot of PFO-solubilized occludin revealed that occludin oligomeric assemblies co-localizing with 'TJ-associated' raft domains contained a high molecular weight 'structural core' that was resistant to disassembly by either SDS or a hydrophilic reducing agent ex vivo, and by Hx and H/R conditions in vivo. However, exposure of PFO-solubilized occludin oligomeric assemblies to SDS ex vivo revealed the non-covalent association of a significant amount of dimeric and monomeric occludin isoforms to the disulfide-bonded inner core, and dispersal of these non-covalently attached occludin subunits to lipid rafts of higher density in vivo was differentially promoted by Hx and H/R. Our data suggest a model of isoform interaction within occludin oligomeric assemblies at the BBB that enables occludin to simultaneously perform a structural role in inhibiting paracellular diffusion, and a signaling role involving interactions of dimeric and monomeric occludin isoforms with a variety of regulatory molecules within different plasma membrane lipid raft domains.

Tome, M. E., Schaefer, C. P., Jacobs, L. M., Zhang, Y., Herndon, J. M., Matty, F. O., & Davis, T. P. (2015). Identification of P-glycoprotein co-fractionating proteins and specific binding partners in rat brain microvessels. Journal of neurochemistry, 134(2), 200-10.

Drug delivery to the brain for the treatment of pathologies with a CNS component is a significant clinical challenge. P-glycoprotein (PgP), a drug efflux pump in the endothelial cell membrane, is a major factor in preventing therapeutics from crossing the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Identifying PgP regulatory mechanisms is key to developing agents to modulate PgP activity. Previously, we found that PgP trafficking was altered concomitant with increased PgP activity and disassembly of high molecular weight PgP-containing complexes during acute peripheral inflammatory pain. These data suggest that PgP activity is post-translationally regulated at the BBB. The goal of the current study was to identify proteins that co-localize with PgP in rat brain microvessel endothelial cell membrane microdomains and use the data to suggest potential regulatory mechanisms. Using new density gradients of microvessel homogenates, we identified two unique pools (1,2) of PgP in membrane fractions. Caveolar constituents, caveolin1, cavin1, and cavin2, co-localized with PgP in these fractions indicating the two pools contained caveolae. A chaperone (Hsc71), protein disulfide isomerase and endosomal/lysosomal sorting proteins (Rab5, Rab11a) also co-fractionated with PgP in the gradients. These data suggest signaling pathways with a potential role in post-translational regulation of PgP activity at the BBB.

Davis, T., Brown, R. C., Mark, K. S., Egleton, R. D., Huber, J. D., Burroughs, A. R., & Davis, T. P. (2003). Protection against hypoxia-induced increase in blood-brain barrier permeability: role of tight junction proteins and NFkappaB. Journal of cell science, 116(Pt 4).

Co-culture with glial cells and glia-conditioned media can induce blood-brain barrier properties in microvessel endothelial cells and protect against hypoxia-induced blood-brain barrier breakdown. We examined the effect of two types of glia-conditioned media on brain microvessel endothelial cell permeability and tight junction protein expression, and studied potential mechanisms of action. We found that C6-glioma-conditioned media, but not rat astrocyte-conditioned media, protected against an increase in permeability induced by exposure to 1% oxygen for 24 hours. This hypoxic stress caused an increase in the expression of tight junction proteins claudin-1 and actin, particularly in cells treated with C6-conditioned media. We found that C6-conditioned media has a significantly higher level of both basic fibroblast growth factor and vascular endothelial growth factor. Treatment with C6-conditioned media for 1 or 3 days protects against hypoxia-induced permeability increases, and this protective effect may be mediated by signal transduction pathways terminating at the transcription factor NFkappaB.

Lochhead, J. J., Ronaldson, P. T., & Davis, T. P. (2017). Hypoxic Stress and Inflammatory Pain Disrupt Blood-Brain Barrier Tight Junctions: Implications for Drug Delivery to the Central Nervous System. The AAPS journal, 19(4), 910-920.

A functional blood-brain barrier (BBB) is necessary to maintain central nervous system (CNS) homeostasis. Many diseases affecting the CNS, however, alter the functional integrity of the BBB. It has been shown that various diseases and physiological stressors can impact the BBB's ability to selectively restrict passage of substances from the blood to the brain. Modifications of the BBB's permeability properties can potentially contribute to the pathophysiology of CNS diseases and result in altered brain delivery of therapeutic agents. Hypoxia and/or inflammation are central components of a number of diseases affecting the CNS. A number of studies indicate hypoxia or inflammatory pain increase BBB paracellular permeability, induce changes in the expression and/or localization of tight junction proteins, and affect CNS drug uptake. In this review, we look at what is currently known with regard to BBB disruption following a hypoxic or inflammatory insult in vivo. Potential mechanisms involved in altering tight junction components at the BBB are also discussed. A more detailed understanding of the mediators involved in changing BBB functional integrity in response to hypoxia or inflammatory pain could potentially lead to new treatments for CNS diseases with hypoxic or inflammatory components. Additionally, greater insight into the mechanisms involved in TJ rearrangement at the BBB may lead to novel strategies to pharmacologically increase delivery of drugs to the CNS.