Welcome to our Center!

Our P30 Center, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), provides proteomics, metabolomics and bioinformatics technologies to biological collaborators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and to members of the neuroscience community at other institutions in the United States and throughout the world. Our Center is built around the overarching theme of cell-cell signaling to advance state-of-the-art proteomics/metabolomics technologies focused on the study of addiction mechanisms in the central nervous system.

Why focus on cell-cell signaling? Intercellular signaling plays a crucial role in the organization and coordination of biological systems. A surprisingly large number of physicochemically and structurally distinct molecules are involved in communication among the cells of the brain, with more being discovered each year. These molecules range in size from the small nitric oxide molecule to large >100 kDa heavily post-translationally modified proteins. In addition, these are the endogenous molecules many of the drugs of abuse mimic in terms of receptor binding and other functions. Therefore, these molecules are particularly relevant in drug abuse research and present high-value targets for pharmacological intervention.

Center Structure

Services are provided to support our collaborators' projects via three synergistic scientific research cores: Sampling & Separation, Molecular Profiling & Characterization, and Bioinformatics, Data Analytics & Predictive Modeling. The Administrative core offers the support necessary to promote and maintain innovative scientific interactions while facilitating interactions among the three individual research cores and Center collaborators. Interested in collaborating with us? Find out how.

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Sampling & Separation


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Molecular Profiling...


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Our Center's Goals include:

  • Providing metabolomics / peptidomics / proteomics measurement capabilities and bioinformatics services to the Illinois, national and international neuroscience communities working on both fundamental neuroscience research and the study of drug addiction mechanisms.

  • Discovering the functional roles of metabolites, peptides and proteins in cell-cell signaling, memory, behavior and addiction.

  • Creating improved MS-based molecular characterization technologies to enable new investigations of cell-cell signaling.

  • Integrating proteomic and transcriptomic information in support of more accurate molecular identification and molecular network inference using systems biology approaches.

Featured Collaborator

Amynah Pradhan, Assistant Professor at UIC, studies the neurobiology of opioid receptors. Her lab has developed preclinical animal models to understand the role of opioid receptors in acute and chronic migraine pathophysiology. They are interested in understanding the mechanisms that lead to migraine chronification, and developing novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of migraine.  Multiple lines of evidence indicate that clinically used opioids can exacerbate headache and result in migraine becoming a chronic condition.  In addition, chronic use of opioids in pain patients also results in a paradoxical increase in pain referred to as opioid induced hyperalgesia (OIH).  The focus of this project is to identify overlapping mechanisms between opioid induced hyperalgesia and chronic migraine. This collaboration combines the Pradhan lab’s experience in behavioral pharmacology with the analytical methods in high throughput chemical characterization pioneered in the Sweedler lab. To this end, we are comparing animals treated in a chronic opioid paradigm with those that have undergone treatment in the chronic migraine model.  We will analyze multiple brain regions relevant to pain and migraine, and characterize the peptide complement and changes in expression levels of these molecules across groups. We will also determine differential transcriptomics in two brain regions using next generation sequencing to not only reveal novel changes in gene expression across and between groups, but in combination with the peptide characterization, corroborate changes at both the transcriptional and translational level.  These “omics” techniques provide an unbiased approach to determine novel regulatory molecules involved in both opioid-induced hyperalgesia and chronic migraine.

View Prof. Pradhan's Publications

Featured Articles

MALDI MS Guided Liquid Microjunction Extraction for CE–ESI-MS Analysis of Single Pancreatic Islet Cells, Comi et. al., Anal. Chem. 89, 2017, 7765–7772.

microMS: A Python Platform for Image-guided Mass Spectrometry Profiling, Comi et al., J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 28, 2017, 1919–1928.

Single Cell Profiling using Ionic Liquid Matrix-Enhanced Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry for Neuronal Cell Type Differentiation, Do et al., Anal. Chem. 89, 2017, 3078–3086.

Categorizing Cells Based on their Chemical Profiles: Progress in Single Cell Mass Spectrometry, Comi et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc. 139, 2017, 3920–3929.

Quantitative Reflection Imaging for Morphology and Dynamics of Live Aplysia Californica Pedal Ganglion Neurons Cultured on Nanostructured Plasmonic Crystals, S. Kang, A. Badea, S.S. Rubakhin, J.V. Sweedler, J. Rogers, R. Nuzzo, Langmuir 33, 2017, 8640–8650.