Journals flag 6 papers, request investigation of New Jersey university biologists

Two journals have published six expressions of concern for a pair of biologists at Rowan University, and are asking the university to undertake an investigation.

We contacted the editors of the two journals — Journal of Cell Science and Biology Open — who both said they decided to flag the papers after a reader raised concerns about potential re-use of blot images. The six papers are co-authored by John G. Pastorino, a molecular biologist at Rowan University in New Jersey and Nataly Shulga, whose LinkedIn identifies her as a research specialist at the same institution. According to the nearly identical notes, the journals (which share a publisher) undertook a review of the original data, but “felt unable to resolve this matter.”

The expressions of concern — five from the  Journal of Cell Science and one from Biology Open — include pretty much the same text. Here’s the note that appeared in JCS:

Concerns have been raised about the scientific validity of the article [title.]

Journal of Cell Science takes these matters very seriously for the sake of the scientific record. These concerns were relayed to the corresponding author, who responded with an explanation and original data. Following review of these data, we felt unable to resolve this matter, and have contacted the authors’ institution and requested that they conduct further investigation.

Journal of Cell Science is posting this Publisher’s Note for information purposes only. It is solely intended to alert readers to the situation while the investigation takes place, and is not a statement regarding the validity of the data. We will provide additional information when it becomes available.

This course of action follows the advice set out by COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), of which Journal of Cell Science is a member. 

The papers from JCS are

The papers were funded by institutes within the U.S. National Institutes of Health, such as the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

And here’s the paper from Biology Open:

That paper received “no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.”

The editors of both journals told us they did not know of any other expressions of concern for the pair.

We have reached out to Shulga, Pastorino, and Rowan University. We will update this post with anything else we learn.

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8 thoughts on “Journals flag 6 papers, request investigation of New Jersey university biologists”

  1. J Biol Chem. 2008 Sep 12;283(37):25638-49. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M800237200. Epub 2008 Jul 17.
    Tumor necrosis factor-alpha can provoke cleavage and activation of sterol regulatory element-binding protein in ethanol-exposed cells via a caspase-dependent pathway that is cholesterol insensitive.
    Pastorino JG1, Shulga N.
    Author information
    1Department of Molecular Biology, School of Osteopathic Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Stratford, NJ 08084, USA.

    Figure 3B.

  2. The first of these papers listed above (Sirt3 De-Ac CypD J. Cell Sci.) was already known to be problematic in the literature, because the authors mixed up the CypD sequences and eliminated the mito’ targeting sequence, so they identified the wrong lysine residue as being modified. This was subsequently spotted by a number of people, and was reported in a paper from David Sinclair’s group…
    “We first immunoprecipitated CypD and identified lysine 166 (K166) as a site of acetylation (Figure 2A, B). Interestingly this site is highly conserved from yeast to human (Figure 2C). During the course of this study, acetylation of K166 was also described [24 – this is the Pastorino paper] but incorrectly reported as K145 because the authors did not include the mitochondrial targeting sequence. In fact, cyclophilin D (Gene ID: 105675) does not possess a lysine at position 145.”

    In addition, the Pastorino paper incorrectly referred to CypD as PPID, whereas (somewhat confusingly) the gene is in-fact named PPIF.

    1. I think you need to reverse the chronological order. At least here where I live, March comes well before December.

  3. J Biol Chem. 2014 Sep 19;289(38):26213-25. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M114.580175. Epub 2014 Aug 5.
    Hexokinase II binding to mitochondria is necessary for Kupffer cell activation and is potentiated by ethanol exposure.
    Shulga N1, Pastorino JG2.
    Author information
    1From the Department of Molecular Biology, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, New Jersey 08084.
    2From the Department of Molecular Biology, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, New Jersey 08084

    2016 retraction.

    Hexokinase II binding to mitochondria is necessary for Kupffer cell activation and is potentiated by ethanol exposure.
    Nataly Shulga and John G. Pastorino
    VOLUME 289 (2014) PAGES 26213–26225

    This article has been retracted by the publisher. An investigation by the Office of Research Integrity determined that falsified and/or fabricated Western blots were included in Figs. 1B, 3A, 4D, 5E, and 6C (

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