Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Authors reused images in three papers, concludes journal probe

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JBCBiologists are retracting three papers after the journal concluded they contain reused images, designed to represent different experiments. The authors stand by the conclusions, some of which they say have been “extensively validated.”

The Journal of Biological Chemistry used image analysis software to evaluate the images, first published at least a decade ago. Unfortunately, the raw data behind the problematic images were not available. The authors have also corrected a fourth paper in another journal, and wrote on PubPeer that they are working with journals to address concerns in three more.

The papers share two authors: Mireia Duñach at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and Antonio García de Herreros at the Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacions Mèdiques. A representative of the Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacions Mèdiques told us it is looking into Garcia de Herreros’s work.

We’ll start with “β-Catenin N- and C-terminal tails modulate the coordinated binding of adherens junction proteins to β-catenin,” which has been cited 45 times since it was published in 2002, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science. The retraction notice says:

This article has been withdrawn by the authors. Errors were identified in several figures. Evaluation by the Journal with image analysis software determined that images were reused to represent different experimental conditions in the GST immunoblots in Fig. 2, A and C, and the N-tail immunoblots in Fig. 3B. The raw data are no longer available to validate the information. The authors have expressed the opinion that none of these errors affect the final conclusions of this article that, according to them, have been validated.

Next, here’s the retraction notice for “Regulation of β-catenin structure and activity by tyrosine phosphorylation:

This article has been withdrawn by the authors. Errors were identified in several figures. Evaluation by the Journal with image analysis software determined that images were reused to represent different experimental conditions in the β-catenin immunoblot in Fig. 2, the β-catenin immunoblots in Fig. 5, the E-cadherin immunoblot in Fig. 6A, the Tcf-4 immunoblot in Fig. 6B, and the β-catenin immunoblot in Fig. 7B. The raw data are no longer available to validate the information. The authors have expressed the opinion that none of these errors affect the final conclusions of this article that, according to them, have been extensively validated during these 15 years.

Published in 2001, the paper has been cited 178 times.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Presenilin-1 interacts with plakoglobin and enhances plakoglobin-Tcf-4 association. Implications for the regulation of beta-catenin/Tcf-4-dependent transcription:”

This article has been withdrawn by the authors. Errors were identified in several figures. Evaluation by the Journal with image analysis software determined that images were reused to represent different experimental conditions in the β-catenin, PS1, and E-cadherin immunoblots in Fig. 2A, the PS1 immunoblots in Fig. 4, B and D, the PS1 and GST immunoblots in Fig. 4E, the Tcf-4 and β-catenin immunoblots in Fig. 6A, the PS1 immunoblot in Fig. 6C, and the GST immunoblots in Fig. 9A. The raw data are no longer available to validate the information. The authors have expressed the opinion that none of these errors affect the final conclusions of this article that, according to them, have been extensively validated.

The 2006 paper has been cited 12 times.

All three retracted papers were questioned on PubPeer, starting in December 2015.

Kaoru Sakabe, Manager of Publishing Issues at JBC told us:

In these three cases, and all other withdrawal cases, the corresponding author made the request.  The request for the withdrawals came in on April 2016.

Sakabe declined to provide further information, noting that “the details of individual cases are kept in strict confidence.”

The authors have also issued a correction in the Journal of Cell Science for “possible duplications and/or splices” in “Upon Wnt stimulation, Rac1 activation requires Rac1 and Vav2 binding to p120-catenin:”

In Fig. 2B, panels labelled as the actin input and p120-catenin IP:p120-catenin panels were inadvertently assembled to show the same blots. Concerns were also raised about possible duplications and/or splices in Figs 4A, 4E, 5D, 6A and 6C. The authors were unable to obtain the original data in order to address these concerns and therefore repeated the experiments. The new data are shown in the figures below and have been verified by the corresponding author’s institute as supporting the original conclusions of the study. There are no changes to the figure legends, which are accurate.

The 2012 paper has been cited 11 times. The corresponding author is Gabriela Valls, then a postdoc at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Her LinkedIn profile says she is currently at Novartis; we could not find current contact information.

Several more papers by Garcia de Herreros and Duñach have been questioned on PubPeer. In the thread for “Gamma-secretase-dependent and -independent effects of presenilin1 on beta-cateninTcf-4 transcriptional activity,” Duñach has posted a comment saying the authors plan to submit a correction to PLOS ONE:

The duplicated band indicated in Fig 3 is actually the same: it corresponds to the analysis of the same protein (plakoglobin) in the same cells (MEFs wild-type for PS1). The three bands of plakoglobin analysis in panels A and B were initially presented in a single figure that was split in two for clarity. The actin loading control of panel 1C (24 h) was duplicated by mistake at 48 h; we have reproduced this figure and it will submitted to the editor for correction.

The 2008 paper has been cited 13 times. A spokesperson for PLOS confirmed that the authors are in communication with the journal.

Peers have also raised concerns about figures in “Multivesicular GSK3 Sequestration upon Wnt Signaling Is Controlled by p120-Catenin/Cadherin Interaction with LRP5/6,” published in 2014 by Molecular Cell. Here, too, Duñach responded:

We have submitted to the Editor original data corresponding to all the panels of these five figures that corroborate their conclusions. We are ready to published new versions of these figures if the Editor requested us to do it.

The paper has been cited 28 times. A spokesperson for Cell Press, the journal’s publisher, told us that they are looking into concerns about the paper raised by a reader.

Finally, a peer raised concerns about a duplicated blot in “p120 Catenin-associated Fer and Fyn tyrosine kinases regulate beta-catenin Tyr-142 phosphorylation and beta-catenin-alpha-catenin Interaction” published in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Duñach wrote on PubPeer:

We have sent to the Editor a response to your concerns. In any case, we are willing to reproduce any result published in this article; all the results presented in these figures and their conclusions have been validated in other articles by our group and others.

The 2003 paper has been cited 208 times.

The director of the Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacions Mèdiques told us:

We are aware of retractions concerning Dr. Antonio Garcia-Herreros work. Internally this issue is managed by our Good Scientific Practices and Scientific Misconduct Committee. We are expecting the report of the committee to proceed with corrective actions.

In 2014, Duñach received an Academia Award from the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies.

We have reached out to Garcia de Herreros, Duñach, and to the Office of Research at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. We will update this post with anything else we learn.

Update, June 3rd, 5:30 PM : 

We have come across a correction from February for García de Herreros and Duñach from the Journal of Cell Science.

Here’s the notice, for “Wnt controls the transcriptional activity of Kaiso through CK1ε-dependent phosphorylation of p120-catenin:”

Some of the blots presented in Fig. 4A were inadvertently duplicated in Fig. 6D. The blots in Fig. 4A are correct as presented. The correct Fig. 6 is presented below. There are no changes to the figure legend, which is accurate. This error does not affect the conclusions of the study.

That paper, published in 2011, has been cited 21 times.

Update, June 20th, 2:19 PM eastern: 

Iván Martínez Flores, the Vicegerent de Recerca (that translates to “assistant research manager”) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona told us that the school:

is aware of the fact that Professor Duñach [has] had three papers retracted.

We started our internal procedures with the relevant authorities to analyse the situation. Once we have the report, we will implement any correction measure deemed necessary.

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Comments
  • Anonymous June 3, 2016 at 9:43 am

    If experimental evidence is tampered with or manipulated, in this case triplicated, how can the authors state so confidently that they “stand by the conclusions”?

  • fernandopessoa June 3, 2016 at 10:09 am

    “Upon Wnt stimulation, Rac1 activation requires Rac1 and Vav2 binding to p120-catenin”
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/22946057

    Not addressed in the correction:-

    Suppl. Figure 2A.
    http://i.imgur.com/EDWWfCD.jpg

    Figure 3B.
    http://i.imgur.com/ks6qBgN.jpg

    Also, similarities between figure 5A J Cell Sci 125,5288 and figure 3C Mol Cell 53,444.
    http://i.imgur.com/ZYDPUNe.jpg

  • Paul Brookes June 3, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Slightly off topic, but people who are CURIous about western blots might find the following paper amusing…. it’s a tutorial on the appropriate use of loading controls, from someone who may be familiar to RW readers…
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003269716300148

  • fernandopessoa June 14, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Another Antonio García de Herreros retraction.

    Mol Cell. 2012 May 11;46(3):369-76. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2012.03.002. Epub 2012 Apr 5.
    Lysyl oxidase-like 2 deaminates lysine 4 in histone H3.
    Herranz N1, Dave N, Millanes-Romero A, Morey L, Díaz VM, Lórenz-Fonfría V, Gutierrez-Gallego R, Jerónimo C, Di Croce L, García de Herreros A, Peiró S.
    Author information
    1Programa de Recerca en Càncer, IMIM-Hospital del Mar, Barcelona, Spain.

    2016 retraction notice.
    http://www.cell.com/molecular-cell/abstract/S1097-2765(12)00209-2

  • fernandopessoa June 14, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    https://www.imim.cat/programesrecerca/cancer/en_grupsintegrants.html

    Epithelial-mesenchymal transition and tumor progression, Antonio García de Herreros
    4 retractions.
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/11279024
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/16306047
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/12077140
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/22483618

    Chromatin dynamics in cancer cells, Sandra Peiró
    1 retraction.
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/22483618

    Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer and Stemness, Lluís Espinosa
    I correction submitted to Journal Cell Sci.
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/16931600

  • fernandopessoa June 16, 2016 at 5:09 am

    Another AG Herreros paper.

    Cancer Res. 2005 Dec 15;65(24):11649-57.
    Endothelin-1 promotes epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in human ovarian cancer cells.
    Rosanò L1, Spinella F, Di Castro V, Nicotra MR, Dedhar S, de Herreros AG, Natali PG, Bagnato A.
    Author information
    1Laboratory of Molecular Pathology and Ultrastructure, Regina Elena Cancer Institute, Rome, Italy.

    PMID: 16357176

    Figure 3.
    http://i.imgur.com/mbKdrkX.jpg

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/16357176

  • fernandopessoa June 27, 2016 at 6:42 am

    2016 paper by M Duñach and AG de Herreros.

    Oncogene. 2016 Jun 20. doi: 10.1038/onc.2016.209. [Epub ahead of print]
    Activation of CK1ɛ by PP2A/PR61ɛ is required for the initiation of Wnt signaling.
    Vinyoles M1,2, Del Valle-Pérez B1, Curto J1, Padilla M1, Villarroel A1, Yang J3, de Herreros AG2,4, Duñach M1.
    Author information
    1Department de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular, CEB, Facultat de Medicina, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain.
    2Programa de Recerca en Càncer, Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacions Mèdiques (IMIM), Barcelona, Spain.
    3Department of Comparative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA.
    4Departament de Ciències Experimentals i de la Salut, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain.

    Figure 6a.
    http://imgur.com/mAd26PY

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/0E99B1B3B43B7D6917347AAA23EE7B#fb53400

  • fernandopessoa July 4, 2016 at 4:41 am

    Authors to submit correction figure 6a.
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/27321178

    Figure 6a. http://i.imgur.com/mAd26PY.jpg

    Oncogene. 2016 Jun 20. doi: 10.1038/onc.2016.209. [Epub ahead of print]
    Activation of CK1ɛ by PP2A/PR61ɛ is required for the initiation of Wnt signaling.
    Vinyoles M1,2, Del Valle-Pérez B1, Curto J1, Padilla M1, Villarroel A1, Yang J3, de Herreros AG2,4, Duñach M1.
    Author information
    1Department de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular, CEB, Facultat de Medicina, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain.
    2Programa de Recerca en Càncer, Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacions Mèdiques (IMIM), Barcelona, Spain.
    3Department of Comparative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA.
    4Departament de Ciències Experimentals i de la Salut, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain.

  • fernandopessoa August 17, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    2016 correction for figures 1C and 3B 2008 AG de Herreros and M Dunach paper.

    PLoS One. 2008;3(12):e4080. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004080. Epub 2008 Dec 30.
    Gamma-secretase-dependent and -independent effects of presenilin1 on beta-catenin.Tcf-4 transcriptional activity.
    Raurell I1, Codina M, Casagolda D, Del Valle B, Baulida J, de Herreros AG, Duñach M.
    Author information
    1Unitat de Biofísica-CEB, Departament de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular, Facultat Medicina, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain.

    2016 correction.
    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0161515

    Pubpeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/19114997

  • fernandopessoa September 8, 2016 at 7:22 am

    J Biol Chem. 2002 Jan 18;277(3):1884-91. Epub 2001 Nov 15.
    The transcriptional factor Tcf-4 contains different binding sites for beta-catenin and plakoglobin.
    Miravet S1, Piedra J, Miró F, Itarte E, García de Herreros A, Duñach M.
    Author information
    1Unitat de Biofisica, Departament de Bioquimica i Biologia Molecular, Facultat de Medicina, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain.

    2016 erratum for figures 2 and 3.
    http://www.jbc.org/content/291/36/18854.long

  • fernando pessoa October 31, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Antonio García de Herreros as second last author.

    Hum Pathol. 2012 May;43(5):632-43. doi: 10.1016/j.humpath.2011.06.021. Epub 2011 Sep 21.
    Epithelial to mesenchymal transition in early stage endometrioid endometrial carcinoma.
    Montserrat N1, Mozos A, Llobet D, Dolcet X, Pons C, de Herreros AG, Matias-Guiu X, Prat J.
    Author information
    1Department of Pathology, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Autonomous University of Barcelona, 08041 Barcelona, Spain.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/0E155718533A0156BBEAD8E8D59A0C

    Figure 6. http://i.imgur.com/jeUYeIQ.jpg

  • fernando pessoa November 11, 2016 at 5:16 am

    J Biol Chem. 2004 Nov 26;279(48):49849-56. Epub 2004 Sep 20.
    beta-Catenin and plakoglobin N- and C-tails determine ligand specificity.
    Solanas G1, Miravet S, Casagolda D, Castaño J, Raurell I, Corrionero A, de Herreros AG, Duñach M.
    Author information
    1Unitat de Biofísica, Departament de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular, Facultat de Medicina, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, E-08193 Bellaterra.
    2016 correction figures 2,4 and 5.
    http://www.jbc.org/content/291/46/23925.short

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