Marie Burns, Ph.D.
3301B Tupper Hall
Davis Campus

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.

For more information, please visit:

Burns Lab website

College of Biological Sciences Faculty Page


  • 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


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

Burns, M.E. and Stevens, B. for the Audacious Goals Initiative Workshop Panelists (2018). Report on the National Eye Institute’s Audacious Goals Initiative: Creating a Cellular Environment for Neuroregeneration. eNeuro 6 April 2018, ENEURO.0035-18.2018.

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. Neuroinflam. 14, 121. doi: 10.1186/s12974-017-0886-6. 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. 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: 28302678.

Burns, M.E., Levine, E.S., Miller, E.B., Zam, A., Zhang, P., Zawadzki, R.J., and Pugh, Jr., E.N. (2016). New developments in murine imaging for assessing photoreceptor degeneration in vivo. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. 854, 269-75. PMID: 26427421.

Zhang, P., Zam, A., Jian, Y., Wang, X., Li, Y., Lam, K.S., Burns, M.E., Sarunic, M.V., Pugh, Jr. E.N. and Zawadzki, R.J. (2015). In vivo wide-field multispectral SLO-OCT mouse retinal imager: longitudinal imaging of ganglion cells, microglia, and Müller glia, and mapping of the mouse retinal and choroidal vasculature. J Biomed Optics 20, 126005. PMID: 26677070.

Zawadzki, R.J., Zhang, P., Zam, A., Miller, E.B., Goswami, M., Wang, X., Jonnal, R.S., Lee, S.H., Kim, D.Y., Flannery, J.G., Werner, J.S., Burns, M.E. and Pugh, Jr. E.N. (2015) Adaptive-optics SLO imaging combined with widefield OCT and SLO enables precise 3D localization of fluorescent cells in the mouse retina. Biomed Opt Express 6, 2191-210.

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

Gross, O.P., Pugh, Jr. E.N., and Burns, M.E. (2015) cGMP in mouse rods: the spatiotemporal dynamics underlying the single photon response. Front Mol Neurosci. 8:6 doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2015.00006.

Levine, E.S., Zam, A., Zhang, P., Pechko, A., Wang, X., FitzGerald, P., Pugh, Jr., E.N., Zawadzki, R. and Burns, M.E. (2014). Rapid light-induced migration of retinal microglia in mice lacking Arrestin-1. Vision Res., 102, 71-9.

Arshavsky, V.Y., and Burns, M.E. (2014). Current understanding of signal amplification in phototransduction. Cellular Logistics 4, e29390;

Kessler, C., Tillman, M., Burns, M.E., and Pugh, E.N., Jr. (2014). Rapid regeneration of rod photoreceptor surface rhodopsin measured with the early receptor potential in vivo. J. Physiol. 592, 2785-97.

Long, J.H., Arshavsky, V.Y. and Burns, M.E. (2013). Absence of synaptic regulation by phosducin in retinal slices. Plos One 8, e83970.

Gross, O.P., Pugh, Jr. E.N. and Burns, M.E. (2012) Calcium feedback to cGMP synthesis more strongly attenuates single photon responses driven by long rhodopsin lifetimes. Neuron 76, 370–382.

Gross, O.P., Pugh, Jr. E.N. and Burns, M.E. (2012) Spatiotemporal cGMP dynamics in living mouse rods. Biophys. J. 102, 1775-1784.

Arshavsky, V.I. and Burns, M.E. (2011) Photoreceptor signaling: supporting vision across a wide range of light intensities. J. Biol. Chem. 287, 1620-6.

Burns, M.E. and Pugh, Jr. E.N. (2010) Lessons from photoreceptors: Turning off G protein signaling in living cells. Physiology 25, 72-84.

Gross, O.P. and Burns, M.E. (2010) Arrestin expression controls the duration of rhodopsin lifetime in intact rods. J. Neurosci. 30, 3450-7.

Burns, M.E. Deactivation mechanisms of rod phototransduction: The Cogan Lecture. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2010; 51, 1282-8.

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