Marie Burns

Marie Burns, PhD

Position Title

Center for Neuroscience
Department of Ophthalmology & Vision Science
Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy
School of Medicine

3301 Tupper Hall

Research Interests

Photoreceptor biology and Retinal Neuroinflammation

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 perserving neuronal and synaptic function.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Graduate Group in Immunology
  • Neuroscience

Specialties / Focus

  • Biochemistry / Enzyme kinetics
  • Neurophysiology
  • Cell Biology
  • Neurobiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Vision


  • NSC 221 Cellular Neuroscience
  • NSC 290 Retina Journal Club
  • NSC 270 Grant Writing in the Biomedical Sciences


  • Burns lab
    • Sarah Karlen, PhD - Assistant Project Scientist
    • Eric Miller - Neuroscience Graduate Student
    • Kaity Ronning - Neuroscience Graduate Student
    • Gabriel Peinado - Neuroscience Graduate Student (co-mentored with Ed Pugh)
    • Karli Ching - undergraduate researcher
    • Sonia Frick - undergraduate researcher
    • Manasa Susarla - undergraduate researcher
    • Camilla Shores - undergraduate researcher

Honors and Awards

  • Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
  • E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation Award
  • Cogan Award (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology)
  • Outstanding Graduate Mentor in Neuroscience
  • Kavli Fellow (National Academy of Sciences)
  • Neuroscience Faculty Service Award

    Professional Societies

    • Society for Neuroscience
    • Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
    • Biophysical Society
    • International Society for Eye Research
    • International Society of Neuroinflammation


    • 1992 BS Biochemistry Susquehanna University
    • 1996 PhD Neurobiology Duke University

    Selected recent publications

    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 (in press).

    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: 28320964.

    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., Pugh, E.N.  (2015).  Adaptive-optics SLO imaging combined with widefield OCT and SLO enables precise 3D localization of fluorescent cells in the mouse retina. Biomedical Optics Express. 6, 2191-210.  

    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. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2015.00006. eCollection 2015.

    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.

    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;

    Gross, O.P., Pugh, Jr. E.N. and Burns, M.E. (2012). Calcium feedback to cGMP synthesis 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.