‘Molecular characterization’ errors lead to retraction from medicinal chemistry journal
The European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry has published a curious retraction notice for a paper in its February 2012 issue from a group of Indian scientists.
The abstract of the article,”Proton-pumping-ATPase-targeted antifungal activity of cinnamaldehyde based sulfonyl tetrazoles,” is still available on Medline:
Here’s what the abstract of the paper said about the study:
Azoles are generally fungistatic, and resistance to fluconazole is emerging in several fungal pathogens. We designed a series of cinnamaldehyde based sulfonyl tetrazole derivatives. To further explore the antifungal activity, in vitro studies were conducted against 60 clinical isolates and 6 standard laboratory strains of Candida. The rapid irreversible action of these compounds on fungal cells suggested a membrane-located target for their action. Results obtained indicate plasma membrane H(+)-ATPase as site of action of the synthesized compounds. Inhibition of H(+)-ATPase leads to intracellular acidification and cell death. Presence of chloro and nitro groups on the sulfonyl pendant has been demonstrated to be a key structural element of antifungal potency. SEM micrographs of treated Candida cells showed severe cell breakage and alterations in morphology.
But the analysis seems to have suffered a fatal flaw or two, although the precise nature of those glitches isn’t clear from the retraction statement:
This article has been retracted at the request of the Authors.
The authors have retracted this article because of errors relating to molecule characterization reported in the text. The authors express their sincere apologies for this oversight.
We’re guessing that faulty “molecular characterization” rises above, say, that involved in slipping on black ice or adding a tablespoon of salt in a recipe that calls instead for sugar. But is it fair to assume that what the authors are trying to say is that their “series of cinnamaldehyde based sulfonyl tetrazole derivatives” was not, in fact, those substances? If so, that would seem like a pretty monumental mischaracterization, yes?
We’ve contacted the corresponding author of the paper, and will update with anything we find out.