Skip to main content
Alun Davies  FRS

Professor Alun Davies


Emeritus Professor

School of Biosciences

Sir Martin Evans Building, Room Cardiff School of Biosciences, The Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX


We use a wide variety of cellular, molecular and transgenic approaches to understand the regulation of neuronal survival and the growth and elaboration of axons and dendrites in the developing vertebrate nervous system.


We use a variety of approaches to investigate how secreted signalling molecules affect the generation and survival of neurons and influence the establishment and modification of their connections in the developing vertebrate nervous system. We have established well-characterised cell culture systems to ascertain the roles of these factors at defined stages in neuroblast and neuronal development and we transgenic technology to investigate the consequences of mutations in the genes encoding these factors, their receptors and other regulatory molecules. We have a particular current interest in the role of the tumor necrosis factor superfamily in regulating the growth of neural processes.

Research team members

Research grants

Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award, 2014-2019, £2,043,743 'TNF superfamily forward and reverse signalling in neural development'.

Selected publications

  • McWilliams, T., Howard, L. and Davies, A. M. 2015. Regulation of autocrine signaling in subsets of sympathetic neurons has regional effects on tissue innervation. Cell Reports 10, pp. 1443-1449.
  • Kisiswa, L., Osório, C., Erice, C., Vizard, T., Wyatt, S. and Davies, A. M. 2013. TNFα reverse signaling promotes sympathetic axon growth and target innervation. Nature Neuroscience 16, pp. 865-873.
  • Osório, C., Chacon, P., Kisiswa, L., White, M., Wyatt, S., Rodiguez-Tebar, A. and Davies, A. M. 2013. Growth differentiation factor-5 is a key physiological regulator of dendrite growth during development. Development 140, pp. 4751-4562.
  • Howard, L., Wyatt, S., Nagappan G., and Davies, A. M. 2013. ProNGF promotes neurite growth from a subset of NGF-dependent neurons by a p75NTR-dependent mechanism. Development140, pp. 2108-2117
  • Gavalda, N., Gutierrez, H. and Davies, A. M. 2009. Developmental switch in NF-kB signalling required for neurite growth. Development 136, pp.3405-3412Gutierrez, H., Hale, V. A., Dolcet, X. and Davies, A. M. 2005.  NF-kB signaling regulates the growth of neural processes during development. Development 132, pp. 1713-1726.
  • O’Keeffe, G., Gutierrez, H., Pandolfi, P. P., Riccardi, C., Davies, A. M. 2008. NGF-promoted axon growth and target innervation requires GITRL-GITR signalling.  Nature Neuroscience 11, pp. 135-142.
  • Vizard, T. N., O’Keeffe, G., Gutierrez, H., Kos, C., Riccardi, D., Davies, A. M. 2008. Regulation of axonal and dendritic growth by the extracellular calcium-sensing receptor. Nature Neuroscience 11, pp. 285-291.
  • Gutierrez, H., Dolcet, X., Tolcos M. and Davies, A. M. 2004. HGF stimulates the development of cortical pyramidal neuron dendrites. Development 131, pp. 3717-3726.
  • Forgie, A., Wyatt, S., Correll, P. and Davies, A. M. 2003. Macrophage stimulating protein (MSP) is a novel target-derived neurotrophic factor for developing sensory and sympathetic neurons. Development 130, pp. 995-1002.
  • Orike, N., Middleton, G., Buchman, V. L., Cowen, T. and Davies, A. M. 2001.  Role of PI 3-kinase, Akt and Bcl-2-related proteins in sustaining the survival of neurotrophic factor-independent adult sympathetic neurons. Journal of Cell Biology 154, pp. 995-1005.
  • Barker, V., Middleton, G., Davey, F. and Davies, A. M. 2001. Role for TNFa in accelerating neuronal apoptosis following NGF deprivation Nature Neuroscience 4, pp. 1194-1198.
  • Andres, R., Forgie, A., Wyatt, S., Chen, Q., de Sauvage, F. J. and Davies, A. M. 2001. Multiple effects of artemin on sympathetic neuron generation, survival and growth. Development 128, pp. 3685-3695.
  • Enokido, Y., Wyatt, S. and Davies, A. M.  1999. Developmental changes in the response of trigeminal neurons to neurotrophins: Influence of birthdate and the ganglion environment. Development 126, pp. 4365-4373.
  • Buchman, V. L., Adu, J., Pinõn, L. G. P., Ninkina, N. N. and Davies, A. M. 1998.  Persyn, a novel synuclein, influences neurofilament network integrity. Nature Neuroscience 1, pp. 101-103.
  • Maina, F., Hilton, M. C., Andres, R., Wyatt, S., Klein, R. and Davies, A. M. 1998. Multiple roles for hepatocyte growth factor in sympathetic neuron development. Neuron 20, pp. 835-846.
  • Buj-Bello, A., Adu, J., Piñón, L. G. P., Horton, A., Thompson, J., Rosenthal, A., Chinchetru, M., Buchman, V. L. and Davies, A. M. 1997.  Neurturin responsiveness requires a GPI-linked receptor plus the Ret receptor tyrosine kinase. Nature 387, pp. 721-724.
  • Wyatt, S., Piñón, L. G. P., Ernfors, P. and Davies, A. M.  1997. Sympathetic neuron survival and TrkA expression in NT3-deficient mouse embryos. EMBO Journal 16, pp. 3115-3123.
  • Ninkina, N., Adu, J., Fischer, A., Piñón, L. G., Buchman, V. L. and Davies, A. M.  1996. Expression and function of TrkB variants in developing sensory neurons. EMBO Journal 15, pp. 6385-6393.
  • Buj-Bello, A., Buchman, V. L., Horton, A., Rosenthal, A. and Davies, A. M. 1995.
  • GDNF is an age-specific survival factor for sensory and autonomic neurons. Neuron 15, pp. 821-828.
  • Davies, A. M., Minichiello, L. and Klein, R. 1995.  Developmental changes in NT3 signalling via TrkA and TrkB in embryonic neurons. EMBO Journal 14, pp.  4482-4489.
  • Davies, A. M., Lee, K. F. and Jaenisch, R. 1993.  p75-deficient trigeminal neurons have an altered response to NGF but not to other neurotrophins. Neuron 11, pp. 565-574.
  • Allsopp, T., Robinson, M., Wyatt, S. and Davies, A. M. 1993.  Ectopic TrkA expression mediates an NGF survival response in NGF-independent sensory neurons but not in parasympathetic neurons. Journal of Cell Biology 123, pp. 1555-1566.
  • Allsopp, T., Wyatt, S., Patterson, H. and Davies, A. M. 1993. The proto-oncogene bcl-2 can selectively rescue neurotrophic factor-dependent neurons from apoptosis. Cell 73, pp. 295-307.
  • Buchman, V. I. and Davies, A. M. 1993.  Different neurotrophins are expressed and act in a developmental sequence to promote the survival of embryonic sensory neurons. Development 118, pp. 989-1001.
  • Wright, E., Vogel, K. S. and Davies, A. M. 1992.  Neurotrophic factors promote the maturation of developing sensory neurons before they become dependent on these factors for survival. Neuron 9, pp.  139-150.
  • Larmet, Y., Dolphin, A. C. and Davies, A. M.  1992. Intracellular calcium regulates the survival of early sensory neurons before they become dependent on neurotrophic factors. Neuron 9, pp.  563-574.
  • Vogel, K. S. and Davies, A. M. 1991. Duration of neurotrophic factor independence in early sensory neurons is matched to the time-course of target field innervation. Neuron 7, pp. 819-830.
  • Wyatt, S., Shooter, E.M. and Davies, A. M. 1990.  Expression of the NGF receptor gene in sensory neurons and their cutaneous targets prior to and during innervation. Neuron 4, pp. 421-427.
  • Davies, A. M. 1989. Intrinsic differences in the growth rate of early nerve fibres related to target distance. Nature 337, pp. 553-555.
  • Davies, A. M., Bandtlow, C., Heumann, R., Korsching, S. Rohrer, H. and Thoenen, H. 1987.   Timing and site of nerve growth factor synthesis in developing skin in relation to innervation and expression of the receptor. Nature 326, pp. 353-358.
  • Lumsden, A.G.S. and Davies, A. M. 1986. Chemotropic effect of specific target epithelium in the developing mammalian nervous system. Nature 323, pp. 538-539.
  • Davies, A. M., Thoenen, H. and Barde, Y.-A. 1986. Different factors from the central nervous system and periphery regulate the survival of sensory neurones. Nature 319, pp. 497-499.
  • Lumsden, A. G. S. and Davies, A. M. 1983. Earliest sensory nerve fibres are guided to peripheral targets by attractants other than nerve growth factor. Nature 306, pp. 786-788.


I did degrees in biochemistry and medicine at Liverpool University followed by a PhD in developmental neurobiology at London University. I have held appointments as Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader in Neurobiology in London University, Professor of Developmental Neurobiology at St. Andrews University School of Biology, Professor of Physiology at Edinburgh University Veterinary School and Executive Vice President of Research at Rinat Neuroscience Corp., USA.

I was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2000, Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 2000, Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2010, Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales in 2011, Member of the Academia Europaea in 2011 and Fellow of the Royal Society in 2011. I was appointed Distinguished Research Professor in Cardiff University in 2004 and became a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator in 2014.