Chemistry at Illinois University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Jonathan V. Sweedler

James R. Eiszner Family Endowed Chair in Chemistry
Director, School of Chemical Sciences
Center for advanced study professor
Associated with the Beckman Institute,
Carl R. Woese Institute of Genomic Biology,
Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology,
The Neuroscience Program and the 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 at Stanford University before joining the faculty at Illinois in 1991. His research interests are in bioanalytical chemistry, and focus on developing new methods for assaying the chemistry occurring in nanoliter-volume samples, and applying these analytical methods to characterize the molecular forms, distribution, and dynamic release of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides from a range of animal models. Professor Sweedler is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Analytical Chemistry.


We develop a variety of analytical measurement methodologies, including microfluidic/nanofluidic sampling, capillary electrophoresis separations, and mass spectrometry characterization. These technologies combine to form metabolomics and peptidomics workflows, with much of our efforts directed toward scaling these methods to nanoliter and smaller volume levels. We are currently developing a range of mass spectrometry imaging approaches that allow thousands of individual cells to be characterized for their neuropeptide content, and a unique capillary electrophoresis approach that allows us to sample the cytoplasm for a selected neuron or glia and characterize its metabolome. Many of these measurement capabilities are unique and not currently available elsewhere.

We use these approaches to study cell-to-cell signaling in the central nervous system to uncover novel neurochemical pathways. Because neurotransmitters and neuromodulators are so well conserved across the entire animal kingdom, we work with a wide variety of animal models, from mollusks to insects to vertebrates. We use new peptidomic and metabolomic approaches—many developed by us—to characterize these signaling molecules in samples ranging from a single cell to entire brain regions.

Why are we interested in these neuromodulatory compounds? Because of the important roles they play in behavior, learning, and memory. Cell-to-cell communication in the brain relies upon a surprising array of molecules, from gaseous molecules (e.g., nitric oxide) to classical transmitters (e.g., glutamate), as well as unexpected molecules (e.g., d-serine), and a range of peptides. We study these to understand how networks of neurons and associated supporting cells such as glia can work together to confer emergent properties that give rise to behavior and memory. Specific queries address what molecules are present in specific cells and networks, and how they change based on network activity, animal behavior, or even on exposure to drugs.

Neuropeptides are perhaps the most diverse category of neuromodulators. Using a suite of mass spectrometry-based approaches, we have characterized the neuropeptides and prohormones in the sea slug, honey bee, urchin, planarian, songbird, and in several mammals. Literally hundreds of new prohormones and even more putative neuropeptides have been discovered, and the bioactivity of several of these novel neuropeptides characterized.

In addition to the research described above, a number of collaborative projects are undertaken through theUIUC Neuroproteomics and Neurometabolomics Center on Cell-Cell Signaling and the Center for Nutrition Learning and Memory.


Sweedler has published >340 peer reviewed manuscripts, 50 editorials, 40 review chapters, and 14 patents that have received >13000 citations with an Hindex of 59 (Web of Science), and >16000 citations and an Hindex of 69 (Google Scholar). Key publications include:

Patch Clamp Electrophysiology and Capillary Electrophoresis–Mass Spectrometry Metabolomics for Single Cell Characterization, J.T. Aerts, K.R. Louis, S.R. Crandall, G. Govindaiah, C.L. Cox, J.V. Sweedler, Anal. Chem. 86, 2014, 3203–3208. DOI:10.1021/ac500168d

The Ctenophore Genome and the Evolutionary Origins of Neural Systems, L.L. Moroz, K.M. Kocot, M.R. Citarella, S. Dosung, T.P. Norekian, I.S. Povolotskaya, A.P. Grigorenko, C. Dailey, E. Berezikov, K.M. Buckley, A. Ptitsyn, D. Reshetov, K. Mukherjee, T.P. Moroz, Y. Bobkova, F. Yu, V.V. Kapitonov, J. Jurka, Y.V. Bobkov, J.J. Swore, D.O. Girardo, A. Fodor, F. Gusev, R. Sanford, R. Bruders, E. Kittler, C.E. Mills, J.P. Rast, R. Derelle, V.V. Solovyev, F.A. Kondrashov, B.J. Swalla, J.V. Sweedler, E.I. Rogaev, K.M. Halanych, A.B. Kohn, Nature 510, 2014,109–114. DOI:10.1038/nature13400

Small-Volume Analysis of Cell-Cell Signaling Molecules in the Brain, E.V. Romanova, J.T. Aerts, C.A. Croushore, J.V. Sweedler, Neuropsychopharmacology 39, 2014, 50–64. DOI:10.1038/npp.2013.145

Discovery of New Enzymes and Metabolic Pathways using Structure and Genome Context, S. Zhao, R. Kumar, A. Sakai, M.W. Vetting, B.M. Wood, S. Brown, J.B. Bonanno, B.S. Hillerich, R.D. Seidel, P.C. Babbitt, S.C. Almo, J.V. Sweedler, J.A. Gerlt, J.E. Cronan, M.P. Jacobson, Nature 502, 2013, 698–702. DOI:10.1038/nature12576

MALDI-guided SIMS: Multiscale Imaging of Metabolites in Bacterial Biofilms, E.J. Lanni, R.N. Masyuko, C.M. Driscoll, J.T. Aerts, J.D. Shrout, P.W. Bohn, J.V. Sweedler, Anal. Chem. 86, 2014, 9139–9145. DOI:10.1021/ac5020222

Circadian Rhythm of Redox State Regulates Excitability in Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Neurons, T.A. Wang, Y.V. Yu , G. Govindaiah, X.Ye, L. Artinian, T.P. Coleman, J.V. Sweedler, C.L. Cox, M.U. Gillette, Science 337, 2012, 839–842. DOI:10.1126/science.1222826

Comparative Peptidomics Analysis of Neural Adaptations in Rats Repeatedly Exposed to Amphetamine, E.V. Romanova, J.E. Lee, N.L. Kelleher, J.V. Sweedler, J.M. Gulley, J. Neurochem. 123, 2012, 276–287. DOI:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2012.07912.x

Genome-Wide Analyses Reveal a Role for Peptide Hormones in Planarian Germline Development, J.J. Collins, III, X. Hou, E.V. Romanova, B.G. Lambrus, C.M. Miller, A. Saberi, J.V. Sweedler, P.A. Newmark, PLOS Biol. 8, 2010, e10000509. DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000509

The Genome of a Songbird, W.C. Warren et al., Nature 464, 2010, 757–762. DOI:10.1038/nature08819

From the Genome to the Proteome: Uncovering Peptides in the Apis Brain.A.B. Hummon, T.A. Richmond, P. Verleyen, G. Baggerman, J. Huybrechts, M A. Ewing, E. Vierstraete, S.L. Rodriguez-Zas, L. Schoofs, G.E. Robinson, J.V. Sweedler, Science 314, 2006, 647–649. DOI:10.1126/science.1124128

High Resolution Microcoil 1H-NMR For Mass-Limited, Nanoliter Volume Samples, D.L. Olson, T.L. Peck, A.G. Webb, R.L. Magin, J.V. Sweedler, Science 270, 1995, 1967–1969. DOI:10.1126/science.270.5244.1967


  • ANACHEM Award, Federation of Analytical and Spectroscopy Societies
  • Malcom E. Pruitt Award, Council for Chemical Research
  • The Analytical Chemistry Award, The American Chemical Society
  • Ralph N. Adams Award, The Pittsburgh Conference
  • Fellow of the American Chemical Society
  • Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Fields of Analytical Chemistry, Eastern Analytical Symposium
  • Viktor Mutt prize, International Regulatory Peptide Society
  • Theophilus Redwood Lecturer, Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award, SACP
  • The Heinrich-Emanuel Merck Prize
  • Instrumentation Award, ACS Analytical Division
  • 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
  • David and Lucile Packard Fellowship
  • Searle Scholar
  • Alfred P. Sloan Fellow
  • NSF Young Investigator


Photo of Jonathan V. Sweedler