University of Kentucky cancer toxicologist retracts three papers for image duplication

Xianglin Shi

A researcher at the University of Kentucky who studies the cancer risks of toxic chemicals has retracted three papers.
All of the retraction notices, which appear in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, refer to some kind of image duplication. The papers were originally published between 2014 and 2017, with the 2014 paper cited 39 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.


The papers all share authors Young-Ok Son, Poyil Pratheeshkumar, Zhuo Zhang and Xianglin Shi. All of the researchers work in the department of toxicology and cancer biology at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, and Son is also based at the National Creative Research Initiatives Center for Osteoarthritis Pathogenesis and School of Life Sciences at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. Two of the notices say that
The corresponding author identified some issues and brought them to the attention of the Journal.
Here are the three papers:

As an example, here is the retraction notice for the last paper:

This article has been withdrawn by the authors. The corresponding author identified some issues and brought them to the attention of the Journal. The following issues were discovered in the article. Lanes 1–3 were duplicated in lanes 5–6 of the c-caspase 3 immunoblot in Fig. 2C. The Nrf2 immunoblot from BEAS-2B cells from Fig. 5D was reused in Fig. 8A. In Fig. 8C, the first two lanes of the p62 ARE F1 and the β-actin gels were duplicated. Additionally, lanes 1 and 8 of the p62 ARE F4 gel were duplicated. In Fig. 9C, lanes 2 and 5 of the Bcl-xL ARE R1 gel were duplicated. In Fig. 9F, lanes 1 and 2were reused in lanes 5 and 6 of the Bcl-2 ARE F1 gel. In Fig. 11B, lanes 3 and 5 of the Nrf2 immunoblot were duplicated. Additionally, lanes 4 and 6 of the lower bands in the LC3 immunoblot were duplicated. In Fig. 11C, the SOD1 immunoblot was reused as the SOD2.

Work for all three papers was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Shi, who is listed as corresponding author or co-corresponding author on all three papers, and still a professor at the University of Kentucky, did not respond to a request for comment.
Asked whether the university is investigating, a spokesperson tells us that the university is aware of the retractions but “not able to provide more information at this time.”

Shi is principal investigator of a 5-year, $7.4 million grant awarded to the University of Kentucky last year from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to establish the UK Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences (UK-CARES).

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11 thoughts on “University of Kentucky cancer toxicologist retracts three papers for image duplication”

  1. Toxicol Sci. 2010 Jan;113(1):127-37. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfp259. Epub 2009 Nov 3.
    Cadmium induces intracellular Ca2+- and H2O2-dependent apoptosis through JNK- and p53-mediated pathways in skin epidermal cell line.
    Son YO1, Lee JC, Hitron JA, Pan J, Zhang Z, Shi X.
    Author information
    1
    Graduate Center for Toxicology, College of Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40536-0305, USA.

    Figure 8C. https://imgur.com/9GflG5m

  2. Toxicol Sci. 2011 Feb;119(2):335-45. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfq335. Epub 2010 Nov 3.
    The dual roles of c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase signaling in Cr(VI)-induced apoptosis in JB6 cells.
    Son YO1, Hitron JA, Cheng S, Budhraja A, Zhang Z, Lan Guo N, Lee JC, Shi X.
    Author information
    1
    Graduate Center for Toxicology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40536-0305, USA.

    See: https://imgur.com/aevMh5K

  3. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2011 Sep 15;255(3):287-96. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2011.06.024. Epub 2011 Jul 13.
    Cadmium induces autophagy through ROS-dependent activation of the LKB1-AMPK signaling in skin epidermal cells.
    Son YO1, Wang X, Hitron JA, Zhang Z, Cheng S, Budhraja A, Ding S, Lee JC, Shi X.
    Author information
    1
    Graduate Center for Toxicology, College of Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40536-0305, USA.

    Figure 4. https://imgur.com/jfSKEqo

  4. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2011 Oct 15;256(2):114-21. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2011.07.016. Epub 2011 Aug 11.
    Reactive oxygen species mediate arsenic induced cell transformation and tumorigenesis through Wnt/β-catenin pathway in human colorectal adenocarcinoma DLD1 cells.
    Zhang Z1, Wang X, Cheng S, Sun L, Son YO, Yao H, Li W, Budhraja A, Li L, Shelton BJ, Tucker T, Arnold SM, Shi X.
    Author information
    1
    Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health, University of Kentucky, 121 Washington Avenue, Lexington, KY 40536, USA.

    Figure 2. Much more similar than you would expect, yet other elements different.

    https://imgur.com/i84Cc4B

  5. Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Mar;165(6):1813-1826. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01684.x.
    1 comment on PubPeer (by: Herina Nigribasis)

    Ursolic acid induces apoptosis in human leukaemia cells and exhibits anti-leukaemic activity in nude mice through the PKB pathway.
    Gao N1, Cheng S1, Budhraja A1, Gao Z1, Chen J1, Liu EH1, Huang C1, Chen D1, Yang Z1, Liu Q1, Li P1, Shi X1, Zhang Z1.
    Author information
    1
    Department of Pharmacognosy, College of Pharmacy, 3rd Military Medical University, Chongqing, ChinaGraduate Center for Toxicology, College of Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KentuckyDepartment of Hematology, Southwest Hospital, 3rd Military Medical University, Chongqing, ChinaKey Laboratory of Modern Chinese Medicines (China Pharmaceutical University), Ministry of Education, Nanjing, China.

    Figure 2C. Some elements much more similar than you would expect, yet other elements different.

    https://imgur.com/QcJZsEh

  6. Synergistic antileukemic interactions between 2-medroxyestradiol (2-ME) and histone deacetylase inhibitors involve Akt down-regulation and oxidative stress
    Blood (2006) pubmed: 16141349 doi: 10.1182/blood-2005-06-2409 issn: 0006-4971 issn: 1528-0020
    Ning Gao , Mohamed Rahmani , Xianglin Shi , Paul Dent , Steven Grant

    Peer 2 Two years ago
    Can someone please wake me up from this nightmare?
    How is this possible? They are everywhere, I stopped after these ones but there are probably more.

    I have contacted VCU several times regarding the seemingly endless issues like the ones pointed out here, but still no action.

    Have I misunderstood something? Maybe it is not science after all but an advanced form of “Where is Wally” VCU scientist are publishing?

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