The National Science Foundation recently granted the University of Illinois $3 million for an interdisciplinary graduate student training program to help form new insight on the brain—and to expand participation in the field of brain science itself.
Jonathan V. Sweedler
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.
- analytical neurochemistry, more specifically, studies on cell to cell signaling pathways involved in learning, memory, and behavior, as well as conserved aspects of neurotransmission across the metazoan; dynamic studies of subcellar neurotransmitter distribution and release, ultra-trace peptide analysis
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 the UIUC Neuroproteomics and Neurometabolomics Center on Cell-Cell Signaling and the Center for Nutrition Learning and Memory.
Distinctions / Awards
- 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
- Viktor Mutt Prize, International Regulatory Peptide Society
- Theophilus Redwood Lecturer, Royal Society of Chemistry
In The News
Jonathan V. Sweedler, Professor of Chemistry and Director of the School of Chemical Sciences, received a NIH grant for his BRAIN Initiative: Integrated Multimodal Analysis of Cell and Circuit-Specific Processes in Hippocampal Function.
Researchers at the Beckman Institute have received more than $2 million dollars over three years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN Initiative in order to develop an analytical platform that can lead to new insights in neuroscience and create diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities in treating neurological diseases.
Professor Jonathan Sweedler has been named to win this year’s Malcom E. Pruitt Award.
Jonathan Sweedler, Eiszner Family Chair in Chemistry and Director of the School of Chemical Sciences, has been named a permanent member of the Center for Advanced Study faculty.