Monday, November 30, 2009

Science paper on glycosylation retracted

News from The Scientist by Jef Akst:
Researchers are retracting a highly-cited 2004 Science paper describing a new way of adding sugars to proteins -- a longstanding challenge in molecular biology -- citing their inability to repeat the results and the absence of the original lab notebooks with the experiment details, they announced in Science last Thursday (November 26).
It's a little curious - that absence of the original notebooks. Here's the retraction:

Science 27 November 2009:
Vol. 326. no. 5957, p. 1187
DOI: 10.1126/science.326.5957.1187-a



We wish to retract our Report (1) in which we report that β–N-acetylglucosamine-serine can be biosynthetically incorporated at a defined site in myoglobin in Escherichia coli. Regrettably, through no fault of the authors, the lab notebooks are no longer available to replicate the original experimental conditions, and we are unable to introduce this amino acid into myoglobin with the information and reagents currently in hand. We note that reagents and conditions for the incorporation of more than 50 amino acids described in other published work from the Schultz lab are available upon request.

Zhiwen Zhang,1 Jeff Gildersleeve,2 Yu-Ying Yang,3 Ran Xu,4 Joseph A. Loo,5 Sean Uryu,6 Chi-Huey Wong,7 Peter G. Schultz7,*

"Regrettably, through no fault of the authors..." is a curious way to report this - absolving themselves, but not giving any other explanation. In an email to The Scientist, Schultz says again, "There are clearly complexities associated with suppression and cellular bioavailablity of these and other glycosylated amino acids that we did/do not understand, and, regrettably, we no longer have the notebooks to help resolve these issues (through no fault of any coauthors)." One wonders what happened.

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