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., Brown, R. C., Mark, K. S., Egleton, R. D., & Davis, T. P. (2004). Protection against hypoxia-induced blood-brain barrier disruption: changes in intracellular calcium. American journal of physiology. Cell physiology, 286(5).

Tissue damage after stroke is partly due to disruption of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Little is known about the role of calcium in modulating BBB disruption. We investigated the effect of hypoxic and aglycemic stress on BBB function and intracellular calcium levels. Bovine brain microvessel endothelial cells were treated with A-23187 to increase intracellular calcium without hypoxia or treated with a calcium chelator (BAPTA) or calcium channel blockers (nifedipine or SKF-96365) and 6 h of hypoxia. A-23187 alone did not increase paracellular permeability. Hypoxia increased intracellular calcium, and hypoxia or hypoxia-aglycemia increased paracellular permeability. Treatment with nifedipine and SKF-96365 increased intracellular calcium under normoglycemic conditions, instead of blocking calcium influx, and was protective against hypoxia-induced BBB disruption under normoglycemia. Protection by nifedipine and SKF-96365 was not due to antioxidant properties of these compounds. These data indicate that increased intracellular calcium alone is not enough to disrupt the BBB. However, increased intracellular calcium after drug treatment and hypoxia suggests a potential mechanism for these drugs in BBB protection; nifedipine and SKF-96365 plus hypoxic stress may trigger calcium-mediated signaling cascades, altering BBB integrity.

Davis, T., Ronaldson, P. T., Demarco, K. M., Sanchez-Covarrubias, L., Solinsky, C. M., & Davis, T. P. (2009). Transforming growth factor-beta signaling alters substrate permeability and tight junction protein expression at the blood-brain barrier during inflammatory pain. Journal of cerebral blood flow and metabolism : official journal of the International Society of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 29(6).

Our laboratory has shown that peripheral inflammatory pain induced by lambda-carrageenan (CIP) can increase blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability and alter tight junction (TJ) protein expression leading to changes in BBB functional integrity. However, the intracellular signaling mechanisms involved in this pathophysiologic response have not been elucidated. Transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta signaling pathways are known to regulate vascular integrity and permeability. Therefore, we examined the function of TGF-beta signaling at the BBB in rats subjected to CIP. During CIP, serum TGF-beta1 and protein expression of the TGF-beta receptor activin receptor-like kinase-5 (ALK5) were reduced. Brain permeability to (14)C-sucrose was increased and expression of TJ proteins (i.e., claudin-5, occludin, zonula occluden (ZO-1)) were also altered after 3 h CIP. Pharmacological inhibition of ALK5 with the selective inhibitor SB431542 further enhanced brain uptake of (14)C-sucrose, increased TJ protein expression (i.e., claudin-3, claudin-5, occludin, ZO-1), and decreased nuclear expression of TGF-beta/ALK5 signaling molecules (i.e., Smad2, Smad3), which suggests a role for TGF-beta/ALK5 signaling in the regulation of BBB integrity. Interestingly, administration of exogenous TGF-beta1 before CIP activated the TGF-beta/ALK5 pathway and reduced BBB permeability to (14)C-sucrose. Taken together, our data show that TGF-beta/ALK5 signaling is, in part, involved in the regulation of BBB functional integrity.

Davis, T. P., Time, M., & Schaefer, C. (2017). Acute pain alters P-glycoprotein-containing protein complexes in rat cerebral complexes: Implications for P-glycoprotein trafficking.. J. Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, Submitted(Submitted), Submitted.
Davis, T., McCaffrey, G., Staatz, W. D., Sanchez-Covarrubias, L., Finch, J. D., Demarco, K., Laracuente, M., Ronaldson, P. T., & Davis, T. P. (2012). P-glycoprotein trafficking at the blood-brain barrier altered by peripheral inflammatory hyperalgesia. Journal of neurochemistry, 122(5).

P-glycoprotein (ABCB1/MDR1, EC, the major efflux transporter at the blood-brain barrier (BBB), is a formidable obstacle to CNS pharmacotherapy. Understanding the mechanism(s) for increased P-glycoprotein activity at the BBB during peripheral inflammatory pain is critical in the development of novel strategies to overcome the significant decreases in CNS analgesic drug delivery. In this study, we employed the λ-carrageenan pain model (using female Sprague-Dawley rats), combined with confocal microscopy and subcellular fractionation of cerebral microvessels, to determine if increased P-glycoprotein function, following the onset of peripheral inflammatory pain, is associated with a change in P-glycoprotein trafficking which leads to pain-induced effects on analgesic drug delivery. Injection of λ-carrageenan into the rat hind paw induced a localized, inflammatory pain (hyperalgesia) and simultaneously, at the BBB, a rapid change in colocalization of P-glycoprotein with caveolin-1, a key scaffolding/trafficking protein. Subcellular fractionation of isolated cerebral microvessels revealed that the bulk of P-glycoprotein constitutively traffics to membrane domains containing high molecular weight, disulfide-bonded P-glycoprotein-containing structures that cofractionate with membrane domains enriched with monomeric and high molecular weight, disulfide-bonded, caveolin-1-containing structures. Peripheral inflammatory pain promoted a dynamic redistribution between membrane domains of P-glycoprotein and caveolin-1. Disassembly of high molecular weight P-glycoprotein-containing structures within microvascular endothelial luminal membrane domains was accompanied by an increase in ATPase activity, suggesting a potential for functionally active P-glycoprotein. These results are the first observation that peripheral inflammatory pain leads to specific structural changes in P-glycoprotein responsible for controlling analgesic drug delivery to the CNS.

Davis, T., Mark, K. S., Burroughs, A. R., Brown, R. C., Huber, J. D., & Davis, T. P. (2004). Nitric oxide mediates hypoxia-induced changes in paracellular permeability of cerebral microvasculature. American journal of physiology. Heart and circulatory physiology, 286(1).

Ischemic stroke from a reduction in blood flow to the brain microvasculature results in a subsequent decreased delivery of oxygen (i.e., hypoxia) and vital nutrients to endothelial, neuronal, and glial cells. Hypoxia associated with stroke has been shown to increase paracellular permeability of the blood-brain barrier, leading to the release of cellular mediators and brain tissue injury. Whereas reperfusion does not occur in all ischemic strokes, increased permeability has been seen in posthypoxic reoxygenation. Currently, it is unknown whether these deleterious effects result from cellular mechanisms stimulated by decreased oxygen during stroke or posthypoxic reoxygenation stress. This study used primary bovine brain microvessel endothelial cells (BBMECs) to examine the involvement of nitric oxide (NO) as a mediator in hypoxia-induced permeability changes. Hypoxia-induced increased transport of [14C]sucrose across BBMEC monolayers compared with normoxia was attenuated by either posthypoxic reoxygenation or inhibition of NO synthase (NOS). The hypoxia-induced permeability effect was further reduced when NOS inhibition was combined with posthypoxic reoxygenation. Additionally, a significant increase in total NO was seen in BBMECs after hypoxic exposure. This correlation was supported by the increased [14C]sucrose permeability observed when BBMECs were exposed to the NO donor diethylenetriaamine NONOate. Western blot analyses of NOS isoforms showed a significant increase in the inducible isoform after hypoxic exposure with a subsequent reduction in expression on reoxygenation. Results from this study suggest that hypoxia-induced blood-brain barrier breakdown can be diminished by inhibition of NO synthesis, decreased concentration of NO metabolites, and/or reoxygenation.