A biosensor system based on the response of living cells was demonstrated that can detect specific components of a complex mixture fractionated by a microcolumn separation technique. This system uses ligand-receptor binding and signal-transduction pathways to biochemically amplify the presence of an analyte after electrophoretic separation. The transduced signal was measured by means of two approaches: (i) fluorescence determination of intracellular calcium concentrations in one or more rat PC-12 cells and (ii) measurement of transmembrane current in a Xenopus laevis oocyte microinjected with messenger RNA that encodes a specific receptor. This analysis system has the potential to identify biologically active ligands present in a complex mixture with exceptional sensitivity and selectivity.