Michael J. Caplan, M.D., Ph.D., who studies how membrane proteins find their proper location on the cell surface, and disruptions in this process that are associated with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), has been named chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

Caplan, the C.N.H. Long Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and professor of cell biology, also serves as associate director for basic research for the School of Medicine’s M.D./Ph.D. Program.

In PKD, a common genetic disease, the normal architecture of kidney tubules is replaced by large, fluid-filled cysts. Caplan and colleagues study the cellular and molecular pathways responsible for this process. They have made the surprising discovery that many receptor and signaling proteins involved in the sense of smell are also expressed in the kidney, a finding that suggests that olfactory signaling mechanisms may play an important role in regulating kidney function in response to chemosensory cues.

Caplan earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Yale School of Medicine in 1987. He became an assistant professor in 1988 and was promoted to full professor in 1998.

In April, Caplan was named as the first recipient of Yale’s Postdoctoral Fellows Mentoring Award. He has been given numerous other honors, including the School of Medicine’s Charles W. Bohmfalk Teaching Prize, the Young Investigator Award of the American Society of Nephrology, and the Henry P. Bowditch Award Lectureship of the American Physiological Society.

Caplan has served as interim chair since the death of his colleague Steven C. Hebert, M.D., a distinguished nephrologist and kidney researcher who served as chair from 2000 to 2008.