The authors of a 2007 PNAS paper that provided molecular details for how calorie restriction may act on Sir2 enzymes to extend life are now retracting their research after discovering a figure was compromised by “several unintentional anomalies in the background image.”
According to study author David W. Piston at Vanderbilt University, first author Qinghong Zhang cut and pasted images together to beautify a figure showing how a form of sugar affects the expression of SIRT1, the mammalian version of the Sir2 enzyme:
She claims it was unintentional.
Still, the findings remain valid, said Piston — he’s seen data from original lab notebooks, including at least 1 other version of the same figure, that show the same results. Other people have also since built on the paper and reproduced its findings, he said.
We contacted Zhang, now based at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and will update if we hear back.
Although the authors could have simply corrected the figure, the paper is old enough that it had “run its course,” said Piston, who is moving to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri to head the department of cell biology and physiology, and simply pulling it seemed like the most “expedient” step:
We felt it was the highest road to take. For us it was really an embarrassment, and it was better to just bite the bullet. We were the ones who signed our name to the bottom line, so we should stand up and say we didn’t do a perfect job.
The paper “Metabolic regulation of SIRT1 transcription via a HIC1:CtBP corepressor complex” has been cited 113 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. The retraction notice, including a statement from the authors, appears below:
CELL BIOLOGY Retraction for “Metabolic regulation of SIRT1 transcription via a HIC1:CtBP corepressor complex,” by Qinghong Zhang, Su-Yan Wang, Capucine Fleuriel, Dominique Leprince, Jonathan V. Rocheleau, David W. Piston, and Richard H. Goodman, which appeared in issue 3, January 16, 2007, of Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (104:829–833; first published January 9, 2007; 10.1073/pnas.0610590104).
The undersigned authors wish to note: “It has come to our attention that Fig. 2A in our paper had several unintentional anomalies in the background image that lead us to question its accuracy. Consequently, we would like to retract this paper from the scientific literature. We apologize to our colleagues for any inconvenience this might have caused.”
A representative of the journal had no additional comments.
Hat tip: Leonid Schneider