Another Cell retraction, and more questions than answers

A new retraction has appeared in the journal Cell. The article, “DNA-PKcs-PIDDosome: A Nuclear Caspase-2-Activating Complex with Role in G2/M Checkpoint Maintenance,” had initially appeared in February 2009.

According to the notice:

Our paper reported the identification of a nuclear protein complex comprising DNA-PKcs, PIDD, and caspase-2 and characterization of its role in G2/M checkpoint maintenance, thereby providing insight into the functional significance of nuclear caspase-2. We recently identified errors affecting several figure panels where original data were processed inappropriately such that the figure panels do not accurately report the original data. We believe that the most responsible course of action is to retract the paper.

We sincerely apologize to the scientific community for any inconvenience that this might cause.

The paper has been cited 37 times, according to Thomson’s Web of Science, suggesting that it had some impact in the field.

We reached the senior author, Chunying Du, at the University of Cincinnati, but she refused to comment on the matter. Another co-author, David Chen, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas, also was reluctant to talk about the problems with the paper. However, Chen did say that the errors did not involve fraud or deception.

We’re satisfied with that response — to a point. But we’re inclined to think that it might be easier for readers if they weren’t left to guess about the nature of the errors and to divine what “processed inappropriately” means. After all, money laundering is inappropriate processing, and so is embezzlement. Not to say that either of these things happened in this case, but why not be clearer rather than open the door to concerns?

The editor of Cell did not reply to a request for comment.

Hat tip: A number of commenters. For more retractions from Cell, see this post and this one.

0 thoughts on “Another Cell retraction, and more questions than answers”

  1. I couldn’t see any obvious problems after looking at the low-resolution copy of the linked article. The one thing I wonder is if the brightness / contrast of gel images was changed in some misleading way. Pictures of gels seem to be a common source of problems.

  2. Looking at the paper, the problems are obvious. As a peer reviewer I would have noticed them immediately. One particularly bad example is Figure 3F, where some particularly bad splicing of gels was done. Many other examples of gel splicing with what I would interpret as bad intent in this paper.

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