Genes & Development (G&D) — a journal published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory that published only its second retraction in its 24-year history a few weeks ago, has published another. The study, “PRMT1-mediated arginine methylation of PIAS1 regulates STAT1 signaling,” was published in 2009 and has been cited 22 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
The retraction notice places the blame squarely on first author Susanne Weber, who was a graduate student at the time the study was published and signed the retraction. The G&D notice, in the July 1, 2011 issue, reads:
In agreement with all authors, we herewith retract our above-mentioned article. In this article, we identified PRMT1 as a novel transcriptional corepressor of IFN-induced STAT1 target genes that cooperates with PIAS1. In the process of following up these findings, researchers in the group of the corresponding author recently uncovered that the original experimental data points of a subset of quantitative PCR (qPCR) results were intentionally falsified by the first author. Therefore, the reported results of Figures 3 (B and C) and 6 (B and C) and Supplemental Figures S7, S11B, and S12 are not supported by the raw qPCR data. As a consequence, we cannot maintain the central conclusions of our paper that PIAS1 is recruited to STAT1 target gene promoters in a PRMT1- and methylation-dependent manner; that PIAS1 methylation leads to promoter release of STAT1 from a subset of target genes and, consequently, to transcriptional repression; and that PRMT4 and PRMT6 do not influence PIAS1-dependent STAT1 target genes. Other results of the paper (Figs. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7) and their conclusions remain unaffected.
We deeply apologize for any inconvenience this scientific misconduct might have caused.
There was a domino effect, because the authors had written a feature about the findings for Cell Cycle. (We’ve written before about a similar case.) That retraction notice, in the July 15, 2011 issue, reads:
This manuscript is being retracted at the authors’ request.
Herewith we retract our Feature in Cell Cycle “Arginine methylation in interferon signaling: New light on an old story” by Weber and Bauer (Cell Cycle 8, 1464-5). In this Feature we discussed our data published in Genes & Development “PRMT1-mediated arginine methylation of PIAS1 regulates STAT1 signaling” by Weber et al. (Genes & Development 23, 118-132). In the process of following up the findings of the Genes & Development publication, researchers in the group of the corresponding author (U.M.B.) recently uncovered that the original experimental data points of a subset of quantitative PCR results were intentionally falsified by the first author (S.W.). As a consequence of these manipulations we could not maintain central conclusions drawn in the Genes & Development publication and retracted the article. Under these circumstances we wish to retract also the Cell Cycle Feature, as it comments on results, which are now questionable. We deeply apologize for any inconvenience this publication might have caused.
We’ve tried to get in touch with senior author Uta-Maria Bauer, of Phillips-University of Marburg, and will update with anything we hear back. She and Weber have co-authored one other paper together, in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Update, 11:15 Eastern, 7/5/11: Bauer responded in detail to our three questions. Weber, it turns out, lost her PhD over these faked data.
Is Dr. Weber still working in science?
Susanne Weber is not working in science anymore. Since her maternity leave in 2009 she is mother and housewife. As far as I know, she does not plan to return to science.
Was there an investigation into her falsification in this case?
A committee for scientific misconduct at the Philipps University in Marburg investigated the falsifications of Susanne Weber in detail. These investigations led to the withdrawal of her doctoral degree.
Are there questions about any of her other papers?
The findings published in the retracted Genes & Development paper were discussed in a “Cell Cycle Feature” paper. Since central conclusions of the G&D paper could not be maintained we retracted the Cell Cycle paper as well. We also rechecked data that led to co-authorships of Susanne Weber on two other papers. We found that her data published in these papers were not manipulated.