Steve Caplan

Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Vice Chair for Administration, Director of the UNMC Advanced Microscopy Core Facility
Research Institute Program Coordinator, Nebraska INBRE Program

Steve Capalan, PhDPhone: 402-559-7556 (Office)
402-559-7559 (Lab)
Fax: 402-559-6650


BSc, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
MSc, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
PhD, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, 1998
Post-doctoral training, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 1998-2003

Current Lab Members:

Naava Naslavsky, PhD (Hebrew University), Co-investigator
Shuwei Xie, PhD (UNMC), Post-doctoral fellow
Kanika Dhawan, Doctoral graduate student
Tyler Jones, Doctoral graduate student

Former Lab Members (graduate students):

Mahak Sharma, PhD, Assistant Professor (tenured), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali, India
Marko Jovic, PhD, Biochemistry Course Mentor at Western Governors University
Juliati Rahajeng, PhD, Post-doctoral fellow, UCSD
Sai Srinivas Panapakkam Giridharan, Post-doctoral fellow, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor,
Bishuang Cai, PhD, Post-doctoral fellow, Columbia University
James Reinecke, MD/PhD, Resident-fellow, University of Iowa
Cali Reiling, MSc, UNMC
Kriti Bahl, Post-doctoral fellow, UCSF
Trey Farmer, Post-docotral fellow, UNMC

Former Lab Members (Post-doctoral fellows):

Jing Zhang, PhD, Assistant Professor of Practice of Biochemistry, Univ. of Nebraska at Lincoln
Laura Simone, PhD, Senior Medical Writer, PRIME Education LLC

Research Technologists:

Dawn Katafiasz, BSc
Linda Kelsey, BSc

View the Caplan Lab personnel

Dr. Caplan is a recipient of the 2008 UNMC Distinguished/New Investigator Award and a 2010 recipient of the UNMC Distinguished Investigator Award.  He also received UNMC's Outstanding Faculty Mentor of Graduate Students Award in 2011, and the Thomas Maciag Award in 2012, a national award for combined research excellence and mentorship.  He serves on the editorial board of The Journal of Biological Chemistry PLoS One, and Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, is a regular member of the NIH Nuclear Cytoplasmic Structure function Dynamics (NCSD) study-section, and previously chaired a review committee at the American Heart Association. 

The Caplan laboratory prides itself on the success of its graduate students and lab members. Of the 9 PhD students that have graduated, 4 have received the very top UNMC honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award for ingenuity and extensive productivity (Marko, Mahak, Sai and James). All students have graduated with a minimum of 5 strong publications in the course of their dissertation research, with some as many as 12 and 6 first-author papers and reviews. More importantly, Caplan laboratory alumni have made important scientific contributions that have been recognized nationally and internationally. Students from the lab have gone on to the very top laboratories at elite institutions (Harvard, Columbia, UCSD, U Michigan, NIH, etc.), have received prestigious fellowships, and have moved on to academic positions. 

In our laboratory, we believe that basic research driven by curious and dedicated researchers will lead to significant biomedical discoveries. Our philosophy is that research should be driven by the questions that are asked, and not by the techniques that are commonly used. For these reasons, students in the Caplan laboratory will be exposed to a wide range of new and evolving techniques in biochemistry, molecular, structural, cell biology and biophysics, and will likely have opportunities to collaborate with multiple laboratories on campus, in the US and abroad.

Student Rotation Opportunities Available

Rotation opportunities are available for highly motivated students. Contact Dr. Caplan for additional information (


Figure 1

The Caplan laboratory is interested in understanding the basic mechanisms and pathways that control the movement of receptors, proteins and lipids from point to point within the cell—a process known as “MEMBRANE TRAFFICKING,” or “VESICULAR TRANSPORT.”

This schematic diagram illustrates some of the endocytic pathways in which receptors travel, once they have been internalized from the cell membrane, and it depicts key proteins that regulate these processes. Rab GTP-binding proteins and Eps15 homology Domain (EHD) proteins are among some of the proteins we study. Multiple studies from our lab and others have implicated these proteins in the steps needed to move proteins from organelle to organelle within the cell, or to recycle receptors back to the plasma membrane.

The internalization of cell surface molecules from the plasma membrane is a critical event for all eukaryotic cells.  While many internalized molecules are degraded in the endo-lysosomal pathway, many receptors, proteins and other molecules undergo sequential rounds of recycling back to the plasma membrane.  Endocytic recycling is key for the control of cell surface receptors on the plasma membrane.  Since most receptors generally transduce signals only when bind ligands at the plasma membrane (PM), this means that regulation of their localization to the PM may have a critical impact on signal transduction, and cell proliferation, which is directly related to cancer.  Endocytic recycling also governs the flow of nutrients into the cell, and can compensate for the loss of membrane lipids incurred during the process of internalization.  Other specialized recycling functions include: synaptic vesicle recycling, iron homeostasis in liver, MHC Class II and MHC Class I molecules, transcytosis of Transferrin receptor and Immunoglobulin A (IgA) across polarized epithelial cells, and insulin-dependent glucose transport in muscle and adipose cells.

Since our laboratory follows our discoveries wherever they lead, research in the lab has expanded to studying the actin cytoskeleton and regulation of actin polymerization, the process of cytokinesis and cell division, the study of primary cilia and their biogenesis, centrosome biology, and most recently, mitochondrial dynamics and their continual fusion and fission.

Recent Publications

Sorting and Recycling Endosomes


Complete List of Published Work