Scientists have pulled their 2013 Infection and Immunity paper after a reader noticed duplicated data in three figures, and the first author was “unable to provide the original data used to construct the figures,” according to the journal’s editor-in-chief.
According to the retraction note, “the first author has accepted responsibility for these anomalies” — similar to another recent retraction from the same journal, also due to image duplication reported by a reader (apparently the journal has one or more careful readers).
The paper, “Pseudomonas aeruginosa Outer Membrane Vesicles Modulate Host Immune Responses by Targeting the Toll-Like Receptor 4 Signaling Pathway,” concerns the role of outer membrane vesicles excreted by the bacteria to incite an inflammatory response in mice. It was written by authors at the University of North Dakota, Sichuan University in China, and the University of Chicago, and has been cited six times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
Here’s the complete retraction note:
Volume 81, no. 12, p. 4509–4518, 2013. The authors hereby retract this article.
After publication, the article was found to contain several images that do not accurately represent the experimental data. Specifically, multiple bands purporting to be from different samples were duplicated: (i) the two far-right GAPDH (glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase) bands in Fig. 2A and the two far-left GAPDH bands in Fig. 3A, (ii) the three right-hand NF-κB bands in Fig. 4A and the three right-hand GAPDH bands in Fig. 4C, and (iii) the first and third MyD88 bands in Fig. 4C.
The first author has accepted responsibility for these anomalies. As the original data are now unavailable, all authors have agreed to retract the article. We apologize to Infection and Immunity and its readers for any inconvenience caused.
Ferric Fang, editor-in-chief of the journal (published by the American Society for Microbiology), shared additional details:
We were contacted by a reader about figures 2A, 3A, 4A and 4C in this manuscript. The duplication of bands purporting to represent different samples was confirmed by an ASM digital data specialist. The corresponding author was then contacted. In this case the first author was unable to provide the original data used to construct the figures. The ASM Journals Ethics Panel recommended retraction of the article because some of the data were inappropriately presented and could not be validated. The authors agreed.
Fang is a member of the board of directors of the Center for Scientific Integrity, Retraction Watch’s parent organization.
We’ve reached out to corresponding author Min Wu at the University of North Dakota and will update if we hear back. We tried an email for first author Kelei Zhao, but it bounced.
Hat tip: @mikethemadbiol
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