Marie Burns, Ph.D.
Tupper Hall 3307,
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 perserving 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

2014  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.

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

2014  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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009  Burns, M.E. and Pugh, Jr. E.N. RGS9 concentration matters in rod phototransduction. Biophysical J. 97, 1538-1547.

2009  Song, X., Vishnivetskiy, S.A., Gross, O.P., Emelianoff, K., Mendez, A., Chen, J., Gurevich, E.V., Burns*, M.E., and Gurevich*, V.V. Enhanced arrestin mutant facilitates photoresponse recovery and protects rod photoreceptors in the absence of rhodopsin phosphorylation. Curr. Biol. 19, 700-5.

2008  Martemyanov, K.A., Krispel, C.M., Lishko, P.V., Yoo, P.J., Burns*, M.E. and Arshavsky, V.Y. Functional comparison of RGS9 splice isoforms in a living cell. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105, 20988-20933.

2006  Krispel, C.K., Chen, D., Chen, Y-J., Melling, N., Martemyanov, K.A., Quillinan, N., Arshavsky, V.Y., Wensel, T.G., Chen, C.-K., and Burns, M.E. RGS expression rate-limits recovery of rod photoresponses. Neuron 51, 409-416.

Recent/Current Teaching

  • Cellular neurophysiology; signal transduction mechanisms
  • NSC 221 Cellular Neuroscience
  • NSC 290 Retina Journal Club
  • NSC 270 Grant Writing in the Biomedical Sciences 

Teaching and Research 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

Recent/Current Research Funding

  • National Eye Institute

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