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



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