Researcher in South Korea racks up three retractions and at least 10 corrections

Joohun Ha

A professor at Kyung-Hee University in Seoul, South Korea, has retracted three articles and had at least ten corrected, all for image manipulation, duplication, or errors.

Joohun Ha’s three retractions all appeared in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC). One of the papers, “AMP-activated protein kinase activity is critical for hypoxia-inducible factor-1 transcriptional activity and its target gene expression under hypoxic conditions in DU145 cells,” first published in 2003, has been cited 186 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. Here’s the retraction notice:

This article has been withdrawn by the authors. In Fig. 1Blanes 1–2 and lanes 3–4 of the ACC immunoblot on the right were duplicated. The first lane of the pACC immunoblot on the right in Fig. 1B was duplicated in Fig. 2A. The HIF-1α immunoblot on the left in Fig. 1B was reused in Fig. 8A. The pACC and ACC immunoblots in Fig. 2Acontained duplicated bands. The VEGF and Glut1 gels in Fig. 3 contained duplicated bands. The HIF-1α and tubulin immunoblots in Fig. 6A had duplicated bands. In Fig. 6Blanes 3 and 7 of the pACC immunoblot were duplicated. In Fig. 8A, a lighter exposure of the first lane was pasted on top of the pACC immunoblot. Additionally, the pJNK immunoblot contained more than 8 lanes of data. Also in Fig. 8Alanes 1–4 of the ERK immunoblot were duplicated in lanes 5–8. Lanes 1–3 of the pp38 immunoblot were duplicated in lanes 4–6 in Fig. 8A. In Fig. 8C, the last two lanes of the HIF-1β immunoblot were duplicated. The Journal also raised questions regarding the pERK immunoblot in Fig. 8A, which the authors were unable to address. Because the original data are no longer available, the authors state that they repeated the above-mentioned experiments and obtained essentially identical results. The authors state that they have full confidence in the conclusions of this paper. The authors apologize to the readers.

The other two retracted papers — “Glucose deprivation increases mRNA stability of vascular endothelial growth factor through activation of AMP-activated protein kinase in DU145 prostate carcinoma” and “Inhibition of AMP-activated protein kinase sensitizes cancer cells to cisplatin-induced apoptosis via hyper-induction of p53” — were cited 118 and 58 times, respectively.

The corrections, spanning May to October of this year, appeared in ApoptosisBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Cancer ResearchCellular Signaling, Free Radical Biology and Medicine, the JBC, and Molecular Medicine Reports.

Ha did not respond to a request for comment. Kaoru Sakabe, data integrity manager at the JBC’s publisher, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, tells Retraction Watch:

Whenever we learn of a concern, we launch an independent investigation. That’s what happened here. The withdrawals and correction in question were initiated after we investigated.

Sakabe did not say what prompted the investigation.

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