Heather Burkin Lab

Assistant Professor
Department of Pharmacology
Center for Molecular Medicine
University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine
1664 North Virginia Ave., Reno, NV 89557
Telephone: (775) 784-6289
email: hburkin@med.unr.edu

Research Interests

My current research is focused on signaling pathways in the pregnant uterus. I am particularly interested in differences between the normal and preterm uterus (particularly human uterus). This topic is extremely relevant today when 12.8% of births in the United States are premature. Since preterm birth is the leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality, it is distressing that this number is so much higher than in other developed countries.


  • 1994: B.A. Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
  • 2003: Ph.D. Reproductive Biology/Animal Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL


  • 1992-1994: Undergraduate Research Student, Eleanor Roosevelt Institute for Cancer Research, Denver, CO. Advisor: Kathleen Gardiner
  • 1995-1996: Student Researcher, Department of Pathology, Cambridge University, England. Advisor: Nabeel Affara, Ph.D.
  • 1996-1997: Laboratory Technician, AgResearch Molecular Biology Unit, Dunedin, New Zealand. Advisor: Thomas E. Broad, DVM.
  • 1997-2003: Graduate Student, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL. Advisor: David J. Miller, Ph.D.
  • 2003-2004: Postdoctoral Scientist, Department of Physiology, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Reno, NV. Advisors: Burt Horowitz, Ph.D./Fiona Britton, Ph.D.
  • 2010-2011: Postdoctoral Scientist, Department of Pharmacology, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Reno, NV. Advisor: Iain Buxton, Pharm.D.
  • 2011-2013: Research Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Reno, NV.
  • 2013-present: Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Reno, NV.


  • 1992: American Cancer Society Student Cancer Research Fellowship
  • 1998-2000: United States Public Health Service Fellowship in Reproductive Biology
  • 2002-2003: David H. and Norraine A. Baker Graduate Fellowship in Animal Sciences
  • 2003: University of Illinois College of ACES Graduate Student Research Award

Professional Societies

  • 1998-1999: The Society for Developmental Biology
  • 2002-2003: The American Society for Cell Biology
  • 2012-present: The Society for Gynecologic Investigation
  • 2013-present: The Society for the Study of Reproduction


  1. Tassone F, Xu H, Burkin H, Weissman S, Gardiner K. cDNA selection from 10 Mb of chromosome 21 DNA: efficiency in transcriptional mapping and reflections of genome organization. (1995) Human Molecular Genetics, 4(9):1509-18. (PMID: 8541833)
  2. Burkin DJ, Jones C, Burkin HR, McGrew JA, Broad TE. Sheep CENPB and CENPC genes show a high level of sequence similarity and conserved synteny with their human homologs. (1996) Cytogenetics and Cell Genetics, 74(1-2):86-9. (PMID: 8893808)
  3. Jones MH, Furlong RA, Burkin H, Chalmers IJ, Brown GM, Khwaja O, Affara NA. The Drosophila developmental gene fat facets has a human homologue in Xp11.4 which escapes X-inactivation and has related sequences on Yq11.2. (1996) Human Molecular Genetics, 5(11):1695-701. (PMID: 8922996)
  4. Burkin HR, Burkin DJ, Davey PM, Griffin DK, Affara NA. Mapping, sequence, and expression analysis of the human fertilin beta gene (FTNB). (1997) Genomics 40(1):190-2. (PMID: 9070941)
  5. Huttner KM, Lambeth MR, Burkin HR, Burkin DJ, Broad TE. Localization and genomic organization of sheep antimicrobial peptide genes. (1998) Gene 206(1):85-91. (PMID: 9461419)
  6. Burkin HR, Broad TE, Furia A. The ovine pancreatic, brain, and seminal ribonuclease genes are assigned to sheep chromosome 7. (1998) Mammalian Genome 9(3):264-6. (PMID: 9501321)
  7. Burkin DJ, Broad TE, Lambeth MR, Burkin HR, Jones C. New gene assignments using a complete, characterized sheep-hamster somatic cell hybrid panel. (1998) Animal Genetics, 29(1):48-54. (PMID: 9682451)
  8. Maddox JF, Davies KP, Crawford AM, Hulme DJ, Vaiman D, Cribiu EP, Freking BA, Beh KJ, Cockett NE, Kang N, Riffkin CD, Drinkwater R, Moore SS, Dodds KG, Lumsden JM, van Stijn TC, Phua SH, Adelson DL, Burkin HR, Broom JE, Buitkamp J, Cambridge L, Cushwa WT, Gerard E, Galloway SM, Harrison B, Hawken RJ, Hiendleder S, Henry HM, Medrano JF, Paterson KA, Schibler L, Stone RT, van Hest B. An enhanced linkage map of the sheep genome comprising more than 1000 loci. (2001) Genome Res 11(7):1275-89. (PMCID: PMC311104)
  9. Burkin HR, Miller DJ. Zona pellucida protein binding ability of porcine sperm during epididymal maturation and the acrosome reaction. (2000) Developmental Biology, 222(1):99-109. (PMID: 10885749)
  10. Shi X, Amindari S, Paruchuru K, Skalla D, Burkin H, Shur BD, Miller DJ. Cell surface beta-1,4-galactosyltransferase-I activates G protein-dependent exocytotic signaling. (2001) Development 128(5):645-54. (PMID: 11171390)
  11. Miller DJ, Burkin HR. Gamete adhesion molecules. (2001) Reproduction Supplements 58:147-58. (PMID: 11980186)
  12. Miller DJ, Shi X, Burkin H. Molecular basis of mammalian gamete binding. (2002) Recent Progress in Hormone Research, 57:37-73. (PMID: 12017553)
  13. Burkin HR, Paula Alves-Vieira A, Miller DJ. Localization of zona pellucida receptors on live sperm by fluorophore-conjugated solubilized zona pellucida proteins. (2004) methods in Molecular Biology, 253:79-93. (PMID: 15037789)
  14. Shi X, Belton RJ Jr, Burkin HR, Vieira AP, Miller DJ. A proteomic approach to identify phosphoproteins encoded by cDNA libraries. (2004) Analytical Biochemistry, 329(2):289-92. (PMID: 15158489)
  15. Burkin HR, Zhao L, Miller DJ. CASK is in the mammalian sperm head and is processed during epididymal maturation. (2004) Molecular Reproduction and Development, 68(4):500-6. (PMID: 15236336)
  16. Zhao L, Burkin HR, Shi X, Li L, Reim K, Miller DJ. Complexin I is required for mammalian sperm acrosomal exocytosis. (2007) Developmental Biology, 309(2):236-44. (PMCID: PMC2099451)
  17. Welser JV, Lange ND, Flintoff-Dye N, Burkin HR, Burkin DJ. Placental defects in alpha7 integrin null mice. (2007) Placenta 28(11-12):1219-28. (PMCID: PMC2128750)
  18. O'Driscoll KE, Hatton WJ, Burkin HR, Leblanc N, Britton FC. Expression, localization, and functional properties of Bestrophin 3 channel isolated from mouse heart. (2008) American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology, 295(6):C1610-24. (PMCID: PMC2603566)
  19. Burkin, H.R., Rice, M., Sarathy, A., Thompson, S., Singer, C.A., Buxton, I.L.O. Integrin Upregulation and Localization to Focal Adhesion Sites in Pregnant Human Myometrium (2013) Reproductive Sciences, 20(7):804-12. (PMCID: 23298868)
  20. Wu, Y., Cowles, C.L., Barnett, S.D., Lee, M.T., Burkin, H.R., Buxton, I.L.O. Characterization of TREK-1 alternatively spliced subunits and their role in channel expression and function (2013) American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology (in revision)

Grants Awarded:

Current Funding
Source of Support: National Institutes of Health
Identifying Number: 4R00HD067342-02
Title: Integrin Regulation of Stretch-Activated Myometrial Signaling During Pregnancy (8/1/13-7/31/16)
P.I.: Heather Burkin
Description of Project: A better understanding of the signaling pathways that regulate stretch-induced contractility of human myometrium could have important implications for treating preterm labor. Focal Adhesion signaling is activated in term human myometrial tissue in response to stretch, strongly indicating the presence of integrin-matrix binding. This proposal will build on results from the K99 research to identify specific integrins involved in myometrial contractions and focal adhesion signaling. We will determine if loss of beta 1 integrin in the mouse uterine myometrium decreases myometrial contractility in response to stretch in vitro, alters downstream signaling pathways, or results in post-term labor. Finally, the switch from a quiescient myometrial phenotype to a contractile state during pregnancy very likely involves the integration of multiple signaling networks generated from both hormonal and mechanical signals. We will identify and quantitate the global phosphoproteome of pregnant human myometrial cells in response to stretch.

Past Funding
Source of Support: National Institutes of Health
Identifying Number: 1K99HD067342-01A1
Title: Integrin Regulation of Stretch-Activated Myometrial Signaling During Pregnancy and Labor (8/1/11-7/31/13)
P.I.: Heather Burkin
Description of Project: During pregnancy the onset of labor is dependent on activation of the uterine myometrium from the quiescent to the contractile state. The initiation of uterine contractions requires the activation of both endocrine and stretch‐induced signaling pathways. Because integrins have been shown to play pivotal roles in smooth muscle contractility, I hypothesize at least one integrin heterodimer will be essential to myometrial contractility. This research will determine which integrin subunits are present and/or upregulated in term pregnant human myometrium and if individual integrin subunits regulate stretch‐induced contraction in human uterine tissue. I will also test the hypothesis that enhanced integrin‐ERK activation in the uterus contributes to preterm labor. Defining the integrin‐ mediated signaling pathways that regulate stretch induced activation of the uterine myometrium will have important implications for treating preterm labor.


  1. Reproductive Pharmacology Journal Club (CMPP 794), 2012. This one-credit course focused on presenting and critically evaluating recent high profile journal articles. I supervised graduate students as they analyzed and evaluated published papers in the fields of reproductive biology and reproductive pharmacology. Course coordinators: Heather Burkin, Ph.D. and Cherie Singer, Ph.D.
  2. Molecular Pharmacology (PHAR 710) 2011-present. This three-credit course is designed for graduate students earning a Ph.D. and interested in careers in biomedical research and development in academia or industry. The course focuses on the molecular biochemistry of receptor structure, mass action considerations governing ligand-receptor binding interactions, molecular pharmacology of transduction of the receptor signal and specific considerations of receptors as pharmaceutical targets. Over 6 contact hours I cover reproductive hormones, fertility and infertility, pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, mechanisms of contraceptive action, and environmental endocrine disruptors. Course coordinator: Iain Buxton, Pharm.D.
  3. Ethics in Scientific Research (PHAR 725) 2012-present. This two-credit course explores ethical issues associated with numerous aspects of scientific research. Since ethics represent a system or code of morals defined by a particular person, religion, group, profession, etc., the students in the course comprise a peer group and define through discussion what is considered to be ethical behavior in situations related to scientific research. Case studies are used to provide details related to specific aspects of a variety of research topics and situations. Over 2 contact hours I covered Gene Therapy and Stem Cells in Research and Medicine. I supervised and facilitated an additional 8 contact hours of this course. Course coordinator: Dean J Burkin, Ph.D.
  4. Medical Pharmacology (PHAR 601) 2013. This 9 credit course teaches 2nd year Medical students the principles, mechanisms of action, therapeutic indications, contraindications, side effects and toxic manifestations of pharmacological agents. Over 4 contact hours I cover Endocrine Pharmacology. Course coordinator: Iain Buxton, Pharm.D.
  5. Reproductive Pharmacology (PHAR 770) 2013. Dr. Singer and I have developed this new three-credit course for graduate students earning a Ph.D. and interested in careers in biomedical research and development in academia or industry. This course provides a substantive background in reproductive physiology and explores recent pharmacological developments in reproductive biology. Over 22 contact hours I will cover the hypothalamic/pituitary axis, steroid hormone biosynthesis, regulation, sites and mechanisms of action, spermatogenesis and sperm transport, oogenesis and the menstrual cycle, male and female contraception and infertility, fertilization and implantation, maternal recognition of pregnancy, placentation, gestation, genetic disorders affecting the reproductive system, and hormone replacement therapies. Course coordinators: Heather Burkin, Ph.D. and Cherie Singer, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

  • Craig Ulrich, Ph.D.

Student Researchers

  • Christian Copley-Salem


  • Morgan Clancy, UNR Graduate
  • Nicholas Wesely
  • Kyle Von Schimmelmann (INBRE award 2014, GURA award 2014)
  • Patricia Cachila