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 290 Retina Journal Club
  • NSC 270 Grant Writing in the Biomedical Sciences
  • NPB261A/B Topics in Vision

Lab Members

  • Sarah Karlen, PhD - Assistant Project Scientist
  • Eric Miller, PhD - Postdoc
  • Kaity Ronning - Neuroscience Graduate Student
  • Gabriel Peinado, PhD - Postdoc
  • Emily Davis - BMCDB Graduate Student
  • Camilla Shores - Junior Specialist
  • Edward N. Pugh, Jr.  - Distinguished Professor 

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


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

    Selected recent publications

    Ronning, K.E., Karlen, S.J., Miller, E.B. and Burns, M.E.(2019). Molecular profiling of resident and infiltrating mononuclear phagocytess during retinal degeneration using single-cell sequencing. Scientific Reports 9, 4858 doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-41141-0. PMID: 30890724.

    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. doi: 10.1186/s12974-018-1365-4. 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.