Margit Burmeister, Ph.D.

Margit Burmeister, Ph.D.

Research Professor, Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute
Professor of Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics
Professor of Human Genetics
Professor of Psychiatry
Co-Director, Bioinformatics Graduate Program

5061 BSRB
109 Zina Pitcher Place
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 -2200


Areas of Interest

My laboratory's research is aimed at finding genes involved in neurological and psychiatric diseases as well as behavior in general. We use genetic methodologies and have identified specific single gene mutations that cause ataxia, seizures and behavioral abnormalities in mice and humans. Our ataxia research takes a genomic approach, including linkage, homozygosity, next generation sequencing, gene expression and machine learning network analysis. We have identified several ataxia genes and use mouse and zebrafish as models to further verify and analyze the genes and protein products.

In contrast to Mendelian single gene defects, human behavior and risk for psychiatric illnesses such as depression and alcoholism are determined by a complex interaction of environmental and multiple genetic risk factors. We include environmental factors and quantitative differences and development in our analyses, and collaborate extensively with clinicians and biostatisticians. We have show that some genetic effects depend strongly on the environment.

Honors & Awards

2016 Endowment in the Basic Sciences, Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, Teaching Award.
2010 Michael Weston Professorship, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
2009 Distinguished Professor, Shanghai Bio-X Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.
2008 NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award
2002 and 2004 NARSAD Independent Investigator Award
1999 Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Sabbatical at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany
1992 and 1996 NARSAD Young Investigator Award
1995 Mental Health Research Institute Discovery Award
1995 Klingenstein Fellowship Award in the Neurosciences
1993 March of Dimes Basil O'Connor Starting Investigator Award


1983-87 Dr. rer. nat. = PhD at European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany, with Dr. Hans Lehrach (conferred from Ruprecht- Karls-University Heidelberg)
1981-83 Diplom (Master) work at Weizmann Institute Science, Rehovot, Israel
1977-83 Undergraduate : Free University of Berlin

Published Articles or Reviews

 i) Kim M, Sandford E, Gatica D, Qiu Y, Liu X, Zheng Y, Schulman BA, Xu J, Semple I, Ro SH, Kim B, Mavioglu RN, Tolun A, Jipa A, Takats S, Karpati M, Li JZ, Yapici Z, Juhasz G, Lee JH, Klionsky DJ, Burmeister M: Mutation in ATG5 Reduces Autophagy and Leads to Ataxia with Developmental Delay, eLife, Jan 26;5. pii: e12245, 2016.

ii) Sandford E, Bird TD, Li JZ, Burmeister M: PRICKLE2 mutations may not be involved in epilepsy, AJHG 98(3):588-9, 2016.

iii) Trucco EM, Villafuerte SM, Heitzeg MM, Burmeister M, Zucker RA: Susceptibility effects of GABA receptor subunit alpha-2 (GABRA2) variants and parental monitoring on externalizing behavior trajectories: Risk and protection conveyed by the minor allele, Dev Psychopathol Feb;28(1):15-26, 2016

iv) Villafuerte SM, Trucco EM, Heitzeg MM, Burmeister M, Zucker RA: Genetic variation in GABRA2 moderates peer influence on externalizing behavior in adolescents. Brain Behavior 4(6):833-40, 2014

v) Burns R, Majczenko K, Xu JS, Peng W, Yapici Z, Dowling JJ, Li JZ, Burmeister M: Homozygous splice mutation in CWF19L1 in a Turkish family with recessive ataxia syndrome. Neurology 83(23):2175-82, 2014

vi) Heitzeg MM, Villafuerte S, Weiland BJ, Enoch MA, Burmeister M, Zubieta JK, Zucker RA. Effect of GABRA2 genotype on development of incentive-motivation circuitry in a sample enriched for alcoholism risk. Neuropsychopharmacology 39:3077-86, 2014

vii) Karg K, Burmeister M, Shedden K, Sen S: The serotonin transporter promoter variant (5-HTTLPR), stress, and depression meta-analysis revisited: Evidence of genetic moderation. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011 May;68(5):444-54

viii) Li MD, Burmeister M: New insights into the genetics of addiction. Nat Rev Genet. 10:225-31, 2009.

ix) Burmeister, M, McInnis, MG, and Zoellner S: Psychiatric Genetics – Progress Amid Controversy. Nat Rev Genet 9: 527-40, 2008.

Web Sites