U Maryland group up to three retractions following investigation

via Wikimedia

A researcher at the University of Maryland, along with two former colleagues, has had three papers retracted in the past six months following an institutional investigation that found evidence of image manipulation.

The three retractions share three authors: Hua Zhou, Ying Hua Yang and John Basile, an associate professor of oncology and diagnostic sciences at the institution. The original papers appeared in Angiogenesis and PLOS ONE between 2011 and 2013.

Basile told Retraction Watch that he was prohibited from discussing the matter, based on statements from the university’s investigation committee, but that he did not think other papers from his lab co-authored with Zhou would be retracted.

One of the articles, “Semaphorin 4D cooperates with VEGF to promote angiogenesis and tumor progression,” has been cited 46 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. Here’s the retraction notice from Angiogenesis, which was published earlier this month:

The Editors-in-Chief have retracted this article [1] following an investigation by the University of Maryland. The institution found that in Fig. 1B and 1D, the cell lines are different and all published histograms show SEMA4D mRNA level whereas Excel data have two histograms showing SEMA4D expression and two histograms showing VEGF expression. In Fig. 2B, the metadata for one image shows different treatment conditions than those reported in the article. The published image labelled “VEGF + VEGFR-2 shRNA” has a metadata label of S4d-plexinB1 shRNA2. In Fig. 2E, statistical significance was shown in the published figure for four comparisons, but upon recalculation, one comparison noted as significant was not. In Fig. 6A, the lower left image is labelled “VEGF shRNA” in the published figure, but the metadata label is “S4DshRNA-HN121-20X”. In Fig. 6C, specifically, within columns 2–4, for each antibody used for immunocytochemistry, the three images have been swapped so that the original images do not match the shRNA labels in the figure (the labels for the two antibodies were correct). In Fig. 7D, the first published image is labelled as “IgG” in the paper, but the metadata show a label of “Restore (V+S).tif”. The third published image has a label of “anti-VEGF IgG”, and the metadata show a label of “con sh.tif”. Due to these errors, the Editors-in-Chief have found that the results are no longer reliable.

Nada O. Binmadi, Patrizia Proia and John R. Basile agree to this retraction.

Hua Zhou and Ying-Hua Yang have not responded to any correspondence from the publisher about this retraction.

Here’s the retraction notice for “The Semaphorin 4D-Plexin-B1-RhoA signaling axis recruits pericytes and regulates vascular permeability through endothelial production of PDGF-B and ANGPTL4,” published in Angiogenesis in 2014 and cited just once, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science:

The Editors-in-Chief have retracted this article [1] following an investigation by the University of Maryland. The institution found that in Fig. 1c, the graph showing PDGF-B does not match the original data for the 24-h time point. The graph shows the value to be over 1000 pg/ml, but the original data have a value of 106.626. In Fig. 1f, the data were entered manually to create the standard deviation bars. The data manually entered do not match the original data. When the standard deviations for the original data were calculated, the p values were no longer significant using a paired Student t test. In Fig. 2c, the original data do not match the published data. In Fig. 4b, the images in the first lane and the fifth lane are from the same micrograph (i.e., the same set of conditions). However, the published figure claims that they are different conditions. The metadata in this figure also shows different cell lines than those noted in the article. The first and last images are labelled as “Du145 shAR3 anti AR3.jpg”. The second image is labelled as “Du145 shAR8 anti AR8.jpg”. The third image is labelled as “Cos1 mARs3 mS3-2 antibody-2.jpg.” The fourth image is labelled as “R1 3634 bleed.jpg”. Due to these errors, the Editors-in-Chief have found that the results are no longer reliable.

John R. Basile agrees to this retraction. Hua Zhou and Ying-Hua Yang have not responded to any correspondence from the publisher about this retraction.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Plexin-B1 Activates NF-κB and IL-8 to Promote a Pro-Angiogenic Response in Endothelial Cells,” a paper first published in PLOS ONE in 2011:

Following publication of this article [1], the PLOS ONE Editors received notification that an internal investigation conducted by the University of Maryland, Baltimore found that in Fig 2B, the histogram with the group data for I-κB super-repressor (SR) is a duplicate of the histogram in Fig 2A for the BAY11-7085-treated cells with a change of a label, calling into question the reliability of the results. A recommendation was made to retract the article in order to correct the scientific record and ensure its integrity.

In light of the findings and recommendation of the institutional investigation, the PLOS ONE Editors retract this article.

PP and JRB agreed with the retraction. Y-HY, HZ, and NOB could not be reached.

The paper has been cited 12 times. The retraction occurred on September 26, 2019, four and a half months after Maryland sent PLOS ONE a letter dated May 8, 2019 that was obtained by Retraction Watch through a public records request.

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