Chemistry at Illinois University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Jonathan V. Sweedler

James R. Eiszner Family Endowed Chair in Chemistry;
Director of the School of Chemical Sciences
Associated with the Beckman Institute,
Biotechnology Center,
Neuroscience Program and Bioengineering Program

Professor Sweedler received his B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of California at Davis in 1983 and his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1989. Thereafter, he was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Richard Zare and Dr. Richard Scheller at Stanford University, and joined the faculty at Illinois in 1991. He is associated with the Beckman Institute, Biotechnology Center, Neuroscience Program and Bioengineering Program. His research interests are in bioanalytical chemistry, and focus on developing new methods for assaying nanoliter volume samples, and applying these methods to study the distribution and dynamic release of neurotransmittors and neuropeptides from individual neurons. Specifically, he is investigating the roles that peptide hormones, neurotransmitters and neuromodulatory agents play in behavior, learning and memory.


Research emphasis is on analytical neurochemistry. Specific technology areas include the development of analytical methods for assaying complex microenvironments, capillary electrophoresis separation methods, laser-based detection methods, MALDI sampling techniques, nanoliter volume NMR and micro/ nanofluidic sampling. The second group research theme is the application of these technologies to the study of the distribution and dynamic release of neuropeptides and classical transmitters, as well as their metabolism, in a cell-specific manner, and the investigation of the roles of neurotransmitter cotransmission in well-defined neuronal networks.

Specifically, we are developing unique capillary separation and detection systems that enable low-concentration assay of peptides from subcellular microenvironments. For example, a unique wavelength-resolved fluorescence detector provides <100-molecule detection limits with the acquisition of complete fluorescence spectra. Using this system, we detect tyrosine- or tryptophan-containing peptides, the catecholamines, indolamines, and nitric oxide synthase cofactors from a small fraction of a single cell. We pioneered the development of a high-resolution nanoliter-volume NMR probe to assay picomole amounts of mass-limited samples and couple NMR to microseparations online. Also, we are developing hybrid microfluidic/nanofluidic devices to manipulate and condition small-volume samples before analysis. Lastly, we are developing mass spectrometry protocols to measure the peptides in individual neurons and cellular processes.

Using these methods, we study the interaction of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides using the well-defined neuronal networks in the simpler nervous systems of marine invertebrates such as Aplysia californica. We have identified novel neuropeptides and neuro- hormones and documented unique processing of additional prohormones, yielding many new neuroactive peptides. Several identified neurons use a combination of gaseous signaling (NO), classical transmitters such as the catecholamines, and neuro- peptides. We are studying the functional interactions between these three diverse classes of intercellular messengers in the same cell.

This research bridges analytical chemistry and cellular neurobiology. By investigating the scaling laws of conventional analytical techniques and adapting them to the femtoliter-nanoliter range, we can assay the chemical microenvironment in and around neurons. Clearly, this work is highly interdisciplinary; we benefit from association with the Neuro Tech Group at the Beckman Institute, and the campus-wide Neuroscience Program.


A Python Analytical Pipeline to Identify Prohormone Precursors and Predict Prohormone Cleavage Sites, B. Southey, J.V. Sweedler, S, Rodriguez-Zas, Front. Neuroinformatics 2, 2009, Article 7.

Characterizing Intercellular Signaling Peptides in Drug Addiction, E.V. Romanova, N.G. Hatcher, S.S. Rubakhin, J.V. Sweedler, Neuropharmacology 56, 2009, 196–204.

Neuropeptidomics of the Rat Supraoptic Nucleus, A. Bora, S.P. Annangudi, L.J. Millet, S.S. Rubakhin, A.J. Forbes, N.L. Kelleher, M.U. Gillette, J.V. Sweedler, J. Proteome Res. 7, 2008, 4992–5003.

Quantitative Measurements of Cell-Cell Signaling Peptides with Single Cell MALDI MS, S.S. Rubakhin and J.V. Sweedler, Anal. Chem. 80, 2008, 7128–7136.

Adapting the Stretched Sample Method from Tissue Profiling to Imaging, T.A. Zimmerman, E.B. Monroe, J.V. Sweedler, Proteomics 8, 2008, 3809–3815.

Electrokinetically Driven Fluidic Transport in Integrated Three-Dimensional Microfluidic Devices Incorporating Gold-Coated Nanocapillary Array Membranes, A. Piruska, S. Branagan, D.M. Cropek, J.V. Sweedler, P.W. Bohn, Lab Chip 8, 2008, 1625–1631.

MS-Based Discovery of Circadian Peptides, N.G. Hatcher, N. Atkins, Jr., S.P. Annangudi, A.J. Forbes, N.L. Kelleher, M.U. Gillette, J.V. Sweedler, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., U.S.A. 105, 2008, 12527–12532.

SIMS and MALDI MS Imaging of the Spinal Cord, E.B. Monroe, S.P. Annangudi, N.G. Hatcher, H.B. Gutstein, S.S. Rubakhin, J.V. Sweedler, Proteomics 8, 2008, 3746–3754.

Peptides in our Brain: Mass Spectrometric-Based Measurement Approaches and Challenges, L. Li and J.V. Sweedler, Annu. Rev. Anal. Chem. 1, 2008, 451–483.

Microproteomics: Analysis of Protein Diversity in Small Samples, H.B. Gutstein, J.S. Morris, S.B.A. Palani, J.V. Sweedler, Mass Spectrom. Rev. 27, 2008, 316–330.

Nanofluidics: Systems and Applications, S. Prakash, A. Piruska, E.N. Gatimu, P. W. Bohn, J.V. Sweedler, M.A. Shannon, IEEE Sensors J. 8, 441–450.

An On-Chip Fluorogenic Enzyme Assay Using a Multilayer Microchip Interconnected with Nanocapillary Array Membranes, M. Gong, B.Y. Kim, B.R. Flachsbart, M.A. Shannon, P.W. Bohn, J.V. Sweedler, IEEE Sensors J. 8, 2008, 601–607.

Immobilization of DNAzyme Catalytic Beacons on PMMA for Pb2+ Detection, T.S. Dalavoy, D.P. Wernette, M. Gong, J.V. Sweedler, Y. Lu, B.R. Flachsbart, M.A. Shannon, P.W. Bohn, D.M. Cropek, 2008, Lab Chip 8, 2008, 786–793.

Detecting D-Amino Acid-Containing Neuropeptides using Selective Enzymatic Digestion, M.A. Ewing, J. Wang, S.A. Sheeley, J.V. Sweedler, Anal. Chem. 80, 2008, 2874–2880.

A One Step Sampling, Extraction and Storage Protocol for Neuropeptidomics using Dihydroxybenzoic Acid, E. Romanova, S.S. Rubakhin, J.V. Sweedler, Anal. Chem. 80, 2008, 3379–3386.

Prediction of Neuropeptide Cleavage Sites in Insects, B.R. Southey, A.B. Hummon, T.A. Richmond, J.V. Sweedler, S.L. Rodriguez-Zas, Bioinformatics 24, 2008, 815–825.

Fluidic Communication between Multiple Vertically Segregated Microfluidic Channels Connected by Nanocapillary Array Membranes, M. Gong, B.R. Flachsbart, M.A. Shannon, P.W. Bohn, J.V. Sweedler, Electrophoresis 29, 2008, 1237–1244.

Detection of Nitric Oxide in Single Cells, X. Ye, S.S Rubakhin, J.V. Sweedler, The Analyst 133, 2008, 423-433.

5-HT and 5-HT-SO4, but not Tryptophan or 5-HIAA Levels in Single Feeding Neurons Track Animal Hunger State, N.G. Hatcher, X. Zhang, J.N. Stuart, L.L. Moroz, J.V. Sweedler, R. Gillette, J. Neurochem. 104, 2008, 1358–1363.

Contributions of Capillary Electrophoresis to Neuroscience, T. Lapainis, J.V. Sweedler, J. Chromatogr. A 1184, 2008, 144–158.

Aplysia Bag Cells Function as a Distributed Neurosecretory Network, N.G. Hatcher and J.V. Sweedler, J. Neurophysiol. 99, 2008, 333–343.

Comparative Analysis of Neuropeptide Cleavage Sites in Human, Mouse, Rat, and Cattle, A.N. Tegge, B.R. Southey, J.V. Sweedler, S.L. Rodriguez-Zas, Mamm. Genome 19, 2008, 106–120.

Simultaneous Nitric Oxide and Dehydroascorbic Acid Imaging by Combining Diaminofluoresceins and Diaminorhodamines, X. Ye, S.S. Rubakhin, J.V. Sweedler, J. Neuro. Methods 168, 2008, 373–382.

Manipulating Mass Limited Samples Using Hybrid Microfluidic / Nanofluidic Networks, J.M. Iannacone, B.Y. Kim, , T.L. King, P.W. Bohn, J.V. Sweedler, in Biological Applications of Microfluidics, edited by F.A. Gomez, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008, 451-472.


  • Malcom E. Pruitt Award, Council for Chemical Research
  • Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award
  • Theophilus Redwood Lecturer from the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • ACS Analytical Division Award in Chemical Instrumentation
  • The Heinrich-Emanuel Merck Prize
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • The Gill Prize in Instrumentation and Measurement Science
  • Benedetti-Pichler Award in Microanalysis
  • Beckman Fellow, Center for Advanced Study
  • ACS Arthur Findeis Award for Young Analytical Scientists
  • Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar
  • University Scholar Award
  • Packard Fellow
  • Searle Scholar
  • Alfred P. Sloan Fellow
  • NSF Young Investigator
  • Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award


"Sensing NO in Single Cells" — Chemical Technology, October 2008 (Read the ChemTech article)

"Neuropeptides Go with the Flow" — Chemical Biology, September 2007 (Read the Chemical Biology article)

"Neurons Grow Less Dense"" — Chemical Biology, August 2007 (Read the Chemical Biologyarticle)

"Microfluidic Chambers Advance the Science of Growing Neurons" —, August 2007 (Read the internetchemistry article) and EurekAlert, August 2007 (Read the EurekAlert article)

"PittCon Awards 2007" — Chemical & Engineering News, Vol 85, No. 12, pp. 66-67

Sweedler Group part of The Honey Bee Sequencing Consortium — Honey Bee Genome Publication and Press Portal

"Newly Discovered Genes, Brain Chemicals Likely Play a Role in Complex Bee Behavior" — Popular Mechanics, November 2006 and National Science Foundation News, October 2006 (Read the National Science Foundation News Article)


Photo of Jonathan V. Sweedler