Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Scientist in Ireland notches two mysterious retractions and a correction

with 15 comments

Sinead Miggin, via NUIM

Sinead Miggin, via NUIM

Sinead Miggin, a biologist at the National University of Ireland Maynooth, has withdrawn two papers from the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) and has corrected another paper, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Here’s the opaque JBC notice for “14-3-3ϵ and 14-3-3σ inhibit Toll-like receptor (TLR)-mediated proinflammatory cytokine induction,” a paper first published in November 2012:

This article has been withdrawn by the authors.

The paper has been cited five times, according to Thomson Scientific.

And here’s the other unhelpful JBC notice, for “Modulation of TLR3, TLR4 and TLR7 mediated IFN-β, Rantes and TNFα production by HIVEP1,” a paper first published in April 2014:

The manuscript was withdrawn by the author.

Here’s the PNAS correction, for 2007’s “NF-κB activation by the Toll-IL-1 receptor domain protein MyD88 adapter-like is regulated by caspase-1:”

The authors note that Fig. 3 appeared incorrectly. Panel B (Top) depicting the time course of NF-κB activation in wild type and caspase-1 deficient peritoneal macrophages is not the same version as the authors submitted originally to PNAS. A correct version including vertical rules to indicate splicing is shown below. Regarding panel C, during the preparation of the manuscript, we inadvertently repeated a set of p38 blots corresponding to p-p38 Western blots. The correct p38 Western blots are shown below. The findings of the paper have not been affected by the error and the authors apologize to the editors and readers. The corrected figure and its legend appear below.

miggin pnas

Fig. 3.

Caspase-1 is required for Mal to signal. (A) (Upper) U373 cells were transfected with a 5x NF-κB reporter gene plasmid. Cells were left untreated or pretreated with YVAD-Cmk (100 μM) or IL-1 receptor antagonist (1 μg/ml) for 1 h. Thereafter, cells were untreated or incubated with LPS (1 μg/ml) or IL-1 (100 ng/ml) for 6 h. Shown is the mean relative stimulation of luciferase activity ± SD for a representative experiment from three separate experiments. (Lower) THP-1 cells were left untreated or pretreated with YVAD-Cmk (100 μM) or IETD-Fmk (50 μM) for 1 h followed by treatment with Pam3Cys (1 μg/ml) or IL-1 (1 μg/ml) for 0–120 min. Activation of p38 was analyzed by using an anti-phospho-p38-specific antibody. (B) (Top) Time course of NF-κB activation in wild-type and caspase-1-deficient peritoneal macrophages stimulated with LPS (10 ng/ml), Malp-2 (10 nM), and R848 (10 μM) as detected by EMSA. (Middle) Supershift assay was performed by using an anti-p65 antibody for 1 h before analysis by EMSA. Protein:DNA complexes are shown. (Bottom) Wild-type and caspase-1-deficient murine embryonic fibroblasts were treated with LPS (100 ng/ml), lipid A (100 ng/ml), or Malp-2 (10 nM) as indicated, followed by immunoblot analysis of the cell lysates with antibodies directed against IκBα or β-actin. (C) Time course of p38 activation in wild-type and caspase-1-deficient peritoneal macrophages stimulated with LPS (100 ng/ml), Malp-2 (10 nM), and IL-1 (1 μg/ml) analyzed by immunoblotting with phospho-p38-specific antibodies. Total p38 levels are also shown. (D) Time course of p38 activation in wild-type and caspase-1-deficient peritoneal murine embryonic fibroblasts stimulated with LPS (100 ng/ml) or Malp-2 analyzed by immunoblotting with phospho-p38-specific antibodies. Total p38 levels are also shown.

The paper has been cited 66 times.

We’re not sure what prompted any of these corrections of the record, but we do know that the pseudonymous Clare Francis emailed PNAS about the now-corrected paper on April 27, 2013. The correction for the paper appeared in October 2013.

We contacted Miggin for comment, and will update with anything we learn.

Update, 12 p.m. Eastern, 9/16/14: Miggin tells us:

The authors of the following papers J Biol Chem, 2012, 287:38665-79 (JBC/2012/367490) and the Paper in Press, JBC/2013/516062 have become aware of inconsistencies in data presentation and as a result the authors requested that the papers be withdrawn. The matter has been referred by the senior author to the host University, and the University is acting in accordance with its policy on research integrity. That policy embodies an important principle of natural justice, that no-one’s reputation should be damaged unless it is determined by a formal investigation that something which threatens the integrity of the research record has occurred. For that reason the process is confidential.  I request that retraction watch should observe the same principle of natural justice.

Update, 12:30 p.m. Eastern, 9/16/14: Maynooth’s vice president for research, Bernard Mahon, sent us this response:

On July 21st 2014,  the senior author on two publications in the Journal of Biological Chemistry informed the University of issues relating to data presentation in those papers.  Subsequently the authors withdrew the publications.  In the meantime the University has begun a wide ranging  examination of the issue under our Research Integrity Policy.

Comments
  • littlegreyrabbit September 15, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Well, that will please Clare Francis no end.
    Actually I wonder if Dr Miggin might have missed a bit.
    There looks to still be a splice line in Panel A, blot IL-1 YVAD-Cmk, p38 bands between 30 and 60 minutes. The p38 bands are flat, while the p-p38 bands have a little smile.

    • Leonid Schneider September 15, 2014 at 11:47 am

      again, these are NOT the images submitted to PNAS! How can anyone actually have the gall to claim something like this?

  • fernando pessoa September 15, 2014 at 11:56 am

    An earlier publication where the senior author on the 2 retractions is first author has received comments at Pubpeer.

    J Biol Chem. 2003 Feb 28;278(9):6947-58. Epub 2002 Dec 17.
    Palmitoylation of the human prostacyclin receptor. Functional implications of palmitoylation and isoprenylation.
    Miggin SM1, Lawler OA, Kinsella BT.
    Author information
    1Department of Biochemistry, Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, Merville House, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/565BD9EF6A769750C12AE75101A477

  • Michele Rajput September 15, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Why doesn’t PubMed prominently label withdrawn or retracted publications?

    I feel like I should research any retractions before reading any papers.

    • Leonid Schneider September 16, 2014 at 4:50 am

      Actually, on Pubmed a retraction looks like another publication, unless you do read closely. So, hypothetically, if you were to publish 10 papers, and have all of them retracted, it would seem to a casual observer or sloppy potential employer who searches your name on Pubmed that you have published 20 papers!

      • fernando pessoa September 16, 2014 at 5:03 am

        2011 paper by the same senior author as the 2 retractions has received comments at Pubpeer.

        J Immunol. 2011 Feb 15;186(4):2514-22. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1003093. Epub 2011 Jan 19.
        Absence of MyD88 results in enhanced TLR3-dependent phosphorylation of IRF3 and increased IFN-β and RANTES production.
        Siednienko J1, Gajanayake T, Fitzgerald KA, Moynagh P, Miggin SM.
        Author information
        1Department of Biology, Institute of Immunology, National University of Ireland Maynooth, Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland.

        https://pubpeer.com/publications/1A086BF51745EC39553390A8555104#fb14287

        • Leonid Schneider September 16, 2014 at 5:29 am

          Thanks Fernando. Have you read the “unregistered submission”: “The authors have contacted the Journal regarding the matter wherein the original images have been submitted.” A new and rather impressive way to respond to allegations of image manipulations?

  • aceil September 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Generally speaking: It is about time the scientific community and policy makers/authorities looked at the issue of recovering ill-gotten gains, those awarded on the basis of to be retracted publications!

  • fernando pessoa September 17, 2014 at 3:38 am

    2001 paper where senior author of the 2 retractions is one (middle) author out of 3 authors has received a comment at Pubpeer.

    J Biol Chem. 2001 Sep 7;276(36):33596-607. Epub 2001 Jul 6.
    Protein kinase A-mediated phosphorylation of serine 357 of the mouse prostacyclin receptor regulates its coupling to G(s)-, to G(i)-, and to G(q)-coupled effector signaling.
    Lawler OA1, Miggin SM, Kinsella BT.
    Author information
    1Department of Biochemistry, Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, Merville House, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/619F4ECAAC0303165B9379300494A5#fb14333

  • Dave November 7, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Well, It is hard to find the actual research misconduct. Is a slight change in the image so problematic so for as the result is reproducible. There are published papers who’s image look perfect, but their content is never reproducible. According to the above policy (Image analysis) those papers are OK. So people should think beyond the image manipulation, i.e reproducibility of the reported result. Some sloppy investigators may not follow the rules but their reported findings might be correct and reproducible. So people should be careful while making judgements

  • fernandopessoa November 10, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    In reply to Dave November 7, 2014 at 11:22 am

    To which papers are you referring? To which policy are you referring?

    This paper does seem to have more than its fair share of problematic images.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/565BD9EF6A769750C12AE75101A477

    A paper by the same senior author.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/1F3D40BE613C51371A3CD3AC03E140

  • fernandopessoa September 9, 2016 at 4:18 am

    2016 Sinead Miggin retraction J Biol Chem.

    J Biol Chem. 2003 Feb 28;278(9):6947-58. Epub 2002 Dec 17.
    Palmitoylation of the human prostacyclin receptor. Functional implications of palmitoylation and isoprenylation.
    Miggin SM1, Lawler OA, Kinsella BT.
    Author information
    1Department of Biochemistry, Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, Merville House, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
    2016 retraction notice.
    http://www.jbc.org/content/291/37/19259

    This article has been retracted by the publisher. Analysis by the Journal of Fig. 9Adetermined that many features had been duplicated in the figure.

    © 2016 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.
    Pubpeer comments: https://pubpeer.com/publications/565BD9EF6A769750C12AE75101A477#fb79989

  • fernandopessoa September 21, 2016 at 3:28 am

    Same senior author as the 2007 PNAS corrected paper.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/16439361

    J Biol Chem. 2006 Apr 14;281(15):10489-95. Epub 2006 Jan 26.
    MyD88 adapter-like (Mal) is phosphorylated by Bruton’s tyrosine kinase during TLR2 and TLR4 signal transduction.
    Gray P1, Dunne A, Brikos C, Jefferies CA, Doyle SL, O’Neill LA.
    Author information
    1School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland.

    Figure 2b.
    http://i.imgur.com/MYAQBAn.jpg

  • fernandopessoa December 10, 2016 at 6:52 am

    Another (this time 2016) correction same senior author as the 2007 PNAS corrected paper.

    http://www.jbc.org/content/291/50/26240.full

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