Verification of nucleotide sequence reagent identities in original publications in high impact factor cancer research journals

Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2024 Jan 9. doi: 10.1007/s00210-023-02846-2. Online ahead of print.


Human gene research studies that describe wrongly identified nucleotide sequence reagents have been mostly identified in journals of low to moderate impact factor, where unreliable findings could be considered to have limited influence on future research. This study examined whether papers describing wrongly identified nucleotide sequences are also published in high-impact-factor cancer research journals. We manually verified nucleotide sequence identities in original Molecular Cancer articles published in 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020, including nucleotide sequence reagents that were claimed to target circRNAs. Using keywords identified in some 2018 and 2020 Molecular Cancer papers, we also verified nucleotide sequence identities in 2020 Oncogene papers that studied miRNA(s) and/or circRNA(s). Overall, 3.8% (251/6647) and 4.0% (47/1165) nucleotide sequences that were verified in Molecular Cancer and Oncogene papers, respectively, were found to be wrongly identified. Wrongly identified nucleotide sequences were distributed across 18% (91/500) original Molecular Cancer papers, including 38% (31/82) Molecular Cancer papers from 2020, and 40% (21/52) selected Oncogene papers from 2020. Original papers with wrongly identified nucleotide sequences were therefore unexpectedly frequent in two high-impact-factor cancer research journals, highlighting the risks of employing journal impact factors or citations as proxies for research quality.

Keywords: Error; Gene research; Nucleotide sequence; circRNA.