Three figures in blood pressure paper were manipulated, says journal

A pharmacology journal has retracted a 2011 paper after concluding images in three figures had been manipulated.

According to the British Journal of Pharmacology, four of the five authors claim they played no role in the manipulation. There is no comment from the remaining author, first author Ian Morecroft, a research associate at the University of Glasgow.

Here’s more from the notice, which says an investigation at the University of Glasgow is ongoing:

The above article, published by the British Journal of Pharmacology in June 2011 (, has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the Journal Editor in Chief and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Formal internal investigations by the British Journal of Pharmacology have concluded that inappropriate manipulation of western blots depicted in Figures 1, 8 and 9 has occurred. The non-corresponding authors (M MacLean, B Doyle, K Mair, M Nilsen, W Kolch) wish to state that they had no knowledge that the figures in question had been manipulated. These issues are currently being investigated by the University of Glasgow. The retraction statement has also been approved by The University of Glasgow Research Integrity Council.

Mice lacking the Raf-1 kinase inhibitor protein exhibit exaggerated hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension” has been cited 10 times since it was published in 2011. PubPeer users flagged the figures in question in 2014 and 2015.

Journal editor Amrita Ahluwalia at Queen Mary University of London told us the journal’s investigation was prompted by pseudonymous whistleblower Clare Francis:

In the first place I assessed the issues raised and we conducted some internal assessment regarding the figures and I also asked an experienced academic for an independent opinion.  Our assessments indicated that there were issues of potential duplication with three of the blots in question. We then contacted the corresponding author with our concerns to essentially offer the authors an opportunity to explain. The University of Glasgow then initiated an internal investigation and we were asked to allow that investigation to be completed which we agreed to. However, the authors came back to us just prior to our 6 month time limit for university investigations indicating that they wished to proceed with retraction. We agreed [to] a retraction statement with all of the authors which we duly published. We are unaware at this time of the outcome of the university investigation.

We’ve contacted Morecroft, last author Mandy MacLean, and the University of Glasgow. A spokesperson told us:

The University cannot discuss the details of an ongoing investigation.

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4 thoughts on “Three figures in blood pressure paper were manipulated, says journal”

  1. Mol Ther. 2012 Aug;20(8):1516-28. doi: 10.1038/mt.2012.70. Epub 2012 Apr 24.
    Gene therapy by targeted adenovirus-mediated knockdown of pulmonary endothelial Tph1 attenuates hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension.

    Morecroft I1, White K, Caruso P, Nilsen M, Loughlin L, Alba R, Reynolds PN, Danilov SM, Baker AH, Maclean MR.
    Author information
    Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, West Medical Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.

    Figure 1a.

    Figure 1b.

  2. Another prominent Raf-1 kinase inhibitor protein paper retracted.

    2021 retraction for:
    PLoS One . 2014 Mar 21;9(3):e92478. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092478. eCollection 2014.

    Raf kinase inhibitor protein (RKIP) blocks signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) activation in breast and prostate cancer

    Saad Yousuf 1, MeiLi Duan 2, Erika L Moen 1, Sam Cross-Knorr 1, Kate Brilliant 1, Benjamin Bonavida 3, Theresa LaValle 4, Kam C Yeung 5, Fahd Al-Mulla 6, Eugene Chin 7, Devasis Chatterjee 1

    1Department of Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital and The Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, United States of America.
    2Department of Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital and The Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, United States of America; Department of Critical Care Medicine, Beijing Friendship Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.
    3Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.
    4Kolltan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.
    5Department of Biochemistry and Cancer Biology, University of Toledo, College of Medicine, Toledo, Ohio, United States of America.
    6Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Kuwait University, Safat, Kuwait.
    7Department of Surgical Research, Rhode Island Hospital and The Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, United States of America.
    PMID: 24658061 PMCID: PMC3962420 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092478

    2021 retraction notice.

    Following the publication of this article [1], concerns were raised regarding results presented in Figs 1, 2, and 4. Specifically,

    Vertical irregularities suggestive of splice lines were detected in the following panels:
    ○. Fig 1D, RKIP panel, between lanes 2 and 3.
    ○. Fig 2A DU145 RKIP panel, between lanes 1 and 2, as well as between lanes 2 and 3.
    ○. Fig 2A PC3 RKIP panel, between lanes 1 and 2, as well as between lanes 2 and 3.
    In Fig 2D, the PC3 PARP panel appears similar to the first two lanes of the right (DU145) panel, despite representing results obtained from different cell lines.
    In Fig 4A, the following similarities were detected between lanes presented in the middle panel and lanes presented in the right panel:
    ○. The first two lanes of the middle pY705 STAT3 panel appear similar to the first two lanes of the right pY705 STAT 3 panel. However, the corresponding Actin panel results for these lanes do not appear to match.
    ○. Lanes 3 and 4 in the middle panel appear similar to lanes 7 and 8 in the middle panel respectively, despite being used to represent different experimental conditions.
    ○. The last lane of the middle pY705 STAT3 panel appears similar to the last lane of the right pY705 STAT3 panel, despite being used to represent different experimental conditions.
    The authors have not provided the original images underlying the panels of concern.

    In light of the concerns affecting multiple figure panels that question the integrity of the data, the PLOS ONE Editors retract this article.

    ELM agreed with the retraction and apologises for the issues with the published article. BB did not agree with the retraction. SY, MD, SC-K, KB, TL, KCY, FA-M, EC, and DC either did not respond directly or could not be reached.

    1.Yousuf S, Duan M, Moen EL, Cross-Knorr S, Brilliant K, Bonavida B, et al. (2014) Raf Kinase Inhibitor Protein (RKIP) Blocks Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 (STAT3) Activation in Breast and Prostate Cancer. PLoS ONE 9(3): e92478. pmid:24658061


    “Together with John Sedivy (Brown University) and Walter Kolch (Systems Biology Ireland & Conway Institute University College Dublin), we identified and named RKIP as one of the metastasis suppressor genes of breast and prostate cancer. ”

    Joins the 2 retracted Raf-1 kinase inhibitor protein retractions.

    Fan of differential splicing. Splicing in some panels (something is missing), but not in other panels (all there)

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