Marie Burns, Ph.D.

3301B Tupper Hall
Davis Campus

Lab Website

College of Biological Sciences Faculty Page

Research Interests

The first steps in vision begin in the photoreceptors of the retina, which transduce photons of light into electrical signals. Our lab examines the biochemical and biophysical properties of signaling in photoreceptors, as well as the consequences of defective signaling on visual performance.

We are also trying to understand why and how photoreceptors die, which is the ultimate leading cause of blindness in humans. Photoreceptor degeneration, like all neurodegenerative diseases, leads to microglial activation and neuroinflammation. We are trying to understand the regulation of neuroinflammation, its relationship to neovascularization, and its helpful vs harmful consequences for preserving neuronal and synaptic function.


  • Neuroscience
    • Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology
  • Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
    • Signal Transduction and Gene Regulation
    • Cellular Responses to Toxins and Stress
    • Structural and Mechanistic Biochemistry
  • Neuroinflammation

Department and Center Affiliations

  • Center for Neuroscience
  • Center for Visual Sciences

Professional Societies

  • Society for Neuroscience
  • Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
  • Biophysical Society

Graduate Group Affiliations

See: An updated list of current publications on PubMedGoogle Scholar »

Miller, E.B., Karlen, S.J., Ronning, K.E. and Burns, M.E. (2021). "Tracking distinct microglia subpopulations with photoconvertible Dendra2 in vivo". J Neuroinflammation 18, 235. doi: 10.1186/s12974-021-02285-x. PMID: 34654439.

Fortenbach, C., Peinado Allina, G., Shores, C.M., Karlen, S.J., Miller, E.B., Bishop, H., Trimmer, J.S., Burns, M.E., and Pugh, Jr. E.N., (2021). "Physiological function and dysfunction of rods lacking Kv21, the principal K+ channel responsible for outward dark current". J Gen Physiol (2021) 153 (2): e202012687. PMID: 33502442.

Lewis, T.R., Shores, C.R., Cady, M.A., Hao, Y., Arshavsky, V.Y., and Burns, M.E. (2020). "The F220C and F45L rhodopsin mutations identified in retinitis pigmentosa patients do not cause pathology in mice". Scientific Reports 10, 7538. PMID: 32371886.

Miller, E.B., Zhang, P., Ching, K., Pugh, Jr. E.N., Burns, M.E. (2019). "In vivo imaging reveals transient microglia recruitment and functional recovery of photoreceptor signaling after injury". Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 116, 16603-16612. PMID: 31350349.

Ronning, K.E., Karlen, S.J., Miller, E.B. and Burns, M.E. (2019). "Molecular profiling of resident and infiltrating mononuclear phagocytes during retinal degeneration using single-cell sequencing". Scientific Reports 9, 4858. PMID: 30890724.

Goswami, M., Wang, X., Zhang, P. Xiao, W., Karlen, S.J., Li, Y., Zawadzki, R.J., Burns, M.E., Lam, K.S., and Pugh, Jr. E.N. (2019). "A Novel Window for Cancer Nanotheranostics: Non- invasive Ocular Assessments of Tumor Growth and Nanotherapeutics Treatment Efficacy In Vivo". Biomed Optics Express. 10, 151-166. PMID: 30775090.

Karlen, S.J., Miller, E.B., Wang, X., Levine, E.S., Zhang, P., Goswami, M., Zawadzki, R.J., Pugh, Jr. E.N., and Burns, M.E. (2018). "Monocyte infiltration rather than microglia proliferation dominates the early immune response to widespread photoreceptor degeneration". J. Neuroinflammation 15, 344. PMID: 30553275.

Ronning, K.E., Peinado Allina, G., Miller, E.B., Goswami, M., Zawadzki, R.J., Pugh, Jr. E.N., Herrmann, R. and Burns, M.E. (2018). "Loss of cone function without degeneration in a novel Gnat2 knock-out mouse". Exp. Eye Res. 171, 111-118. PMID: 29518352.

Wang, X., Miller, E.B., Goswami, M., Zhang, P., Ronning, K. E., Karlen, S.J., Zawadzki, R.J., Pugh, Jr. E.N., and Burns, M.E. (2017). "Rapid monocyte infiltration following retinal detachment is dependent on non-canonical IL6 signaling through gp130". J. Neuroinflammation 14, 121. PMID: 28645275.

Zhang, P., Zawadzki, R.J., Goswami, M., Nguyen, P.T., Yarov-Yarovoy, V., Burns, M.E., and Pugh, Jr., E.N. (2017). "In vivo photoreceptor optophysiology reveals that G-protein activation triggers osmotic swelling and increased light scattering of rod photoreceptors". Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci USA. PMID: 28320964.

Peinado Allina, G. Fortenbach, C.F., Naarendorp, F., Gross, O.P., Pugh, Jr. E.N., Burns, M.E. (2017). "Bright flash response recovery of mammalian rods in vivo is rate-limited by RGS9". J. Gen. Physiol. 149, 443-454. PMID: 28320964.

Gross, O.P., Pugh, E.N., Jr., and Burns, M.E. (2015). "cGMP in mouse rods: the spatiotemporal dynamics underlying single photon responses". Front Mol Neurosci, 8, 6. PMID: 25788876.

Fortenbach, C.F. Peinado, G., Kessler, C. and Burns, M.E. (2015). "Speeding rod recovery improves temporal resolution in the retina". Vision Res, 110, 57-67. PMID: 25748270.

  • Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
  • E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation Award
  • Cogan Award (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology)
  • Outstanding Graduate Mentor in Neuroscience
  • Cellular neurophysiology; signal transduction mechanisms
  • NSC 221 Cellular Neuroscience
  • NSC 290 Retina Journal Club
  • NSC 270 Grant Writing in the Biomedical Sciences
  • National Eye Institute