Research integrity

Voinnet’s CNRS investigator Catherine Jessus with own data integrity issues

More suspected data manipulations in the papers by the French elite biologists. It was funny enough when the director and several lead figures at the Strasbourg CNRS institute for plant sciences IBMP, former home of the master data manipulator Olivier Voinnet, and even the institute’s evaluators, were found to sport quite a lot of shifty-looking data in their papers. This time, the irony is just too much. Catherine Jessus, developmental biologist specialising on cell cycle research on oocytes and director of CNRS l’Institut des sciences biologiques (INSB) was in charge of two misconduct cases, and now the data integrity of her own papers is called in question. One investigation led by Jessus was about, whom else, Voinnet and his IBMP sidekick Patrice Dunoyer. In summer 2015, Voinnet was barred from CNRS for 2 years (which sounds worse than it is, because his professorship at ETH Zürich in Switzerland remained untouched, read here), and Dunoyer was suspended for one entire month. Jessus’ secret investigation ended with no documents whatsoever but a terse press release made available to outsiders. Both Voinnet and Dunoyer are by now back to publishing papers in prestigious journals.

Jessus was also in charge of dealing with the misconduct evidence against Voinnet’s former postdoc Charles-Henri Lecellier, whom the mighty plant scientist (according to my sources) banned from his Strasbourg lab because he did not trust his research results. It seems Lecellier started to fudge data already during his PhD at CNRS Hôpital Saint-Louis in Paris (PubPeer record here). Imagine how bad it must get that Voinnet expels you for data manipulation! The tenured CNRS researcher was hence moved out of Voinnet’s sight, to work as group leader at the Institut de Génétique Moléculaire de Montpellier, where he continued his own line of data rigging, helped by his trusted friend from IBMP, Guillaume Vetter (see my earlier reporting for a German magazine here and here). Apparently, with full protection from CNRS: in 2013 Jessus actively opposed on behalf of CNRS the impending retraction of a Lecellier co-authored paper, despite earlier misconduct findings against his partner Vetter at the University of Luxembourg (evidence here, especially this letter, example of data manipulations here).

The university’s and last author’s requests of retraction to the NPG journal Oncogene were initially overruled by Lecellier’s and Jessus’ insistence to issue a correction instead, but the paper Vetter et al 2010 was eventually pulled in December 2015 following my reporting. Nothing at all happened to other problematic papers by Lecellier, one of most troublesome of which was Saumet et al 2008, where real-time PCR data was selectively “modified” to accommodate peer reviewer criticisms (see highlighted changes here and Lecellier’s originally submitted manuscript here). The journal Blood, published by American Society of Hematology, ignored all that evidence, and so did CNRS and Jessus.

Now, I was presented with some evidence of inappropriate data handling in Jessus’ own papers. It doesn’t look like the “mistakes” were accidental, whoever did them. Does this explain Jessus’ understanding stance towards Lecellier and Voinnet?

I wrote to her, but just as my Voinnet inquiries over 2 years ago, I received no reply. There is only one way to resolve this: Olivier Voinnet, whose ban from CNRS has now expired, should return and investigate Catherine Jessus, to complete the circle.

So here are four Jessus papers, and the evidence I was forwarded.

  1. A. Karaiskou, C. Jessus, T. Brassac, R. Ozon

Phosphatase 2A and polo kinase, two antagonistic regulators of cdc25 activation and MPF auto-amplification
J Cell Sci 1999 112: 3747-3756

J Cell Sci. 1999
Two highlighted bands in Figure 3C of Karaiskou et al 1999 appear duplicated, which can never happen by mistake.

Update 6.09.2017. This new evidence regarding Karaiskou et al 1999 was forwarded to me by another reader of my site. The first author Anthi Karaiskou is now  associate professor at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris.

JCS 1999 5B
Highlighted xCdc25 bands in Figure 5B appear duplicated, with an upper part of the band possibly erased to hide similarities
JCS 1999 3B
XCdc25 bands in the first two lanes of Figure 3B appear very similar, hence possibly duplicated with some erasure to hide similarities
Development 2003 5d
A band seemingly duplicated in Fugure 3B also seems to appear in Figure 5D (red). Other potential band duplications labelled in green and blue.

2. Anthi Karaiskou, Anne-Claire Leprêtre, Golbahar Pahlavan, David Du Pasquier, René Ozon, Catherine Jessus

Polo-like kinase confers MPF autoamplification competence to growing Xenopus oocytes
Development 2004 131: 1543-1552; doi: 10.1242/dev.01050

Development 2004
Two highlighted bands in Figure 6C of Karaiskou et al 2004 appear duplicated, and slightly shifted.

Update 6.09.2017. This new evidence regarding Karaiskou et al 2004 was forwarded to me by another reader of my site:

Development 2003 7A
Two highlighted bands for Mytl are duplicated, according to this analysis

Update 7.09.2017. Another one from that concerned reader:

Development 2003 7A2
First two Plk bands in Figure 7A are very likely duplicated
JCS 1999 5C
In Figure 5C, 1st and 4th p-Tyr-Cdc2 bands seem duplicated

Update 10.09.2017. This came from yet another reader of my site:

Development 2003 1B
In Figures 1B and 5C, yellow highlighted bands might be duplicated

3. Zhao Y, Haccard O, Wang R, Yu J, Kuang J, Jessus C, Goldberg ML.

Roles of Greatwall kinase in the regulation of cdc25 phosphatase.

Mol Biol Cell. 2008 doi: 10.1091/mbc.E07-11-1099.

Mol Biol Cell. 2008 fig 4

Mol Biol Cell. 2008 fig 8
Figures 4 (top) and 8B (bottom) of Zhao et al 2008 share similarities, highlighted in green. the experimental conditions are according to figure legends however somewhat different. Red and yellow show that both Plx1 (MW 120kDa) and Cyclin A1 (MW 47kDa) panels are part of the same gel. However, the red frames are offset, and the samples do not match anymore.
4. Enrico M. DaldelloTran LeRobert PoulheCatherine JessusOlivier HaccardAude Dupré
Fine-tuning of Cdc6 accumulation by Cdk1 and MAP kinase is essential for completion of oocyte meiotic divisions
J Cell Sci. 2015 fig 4
Panels Cdk1 in Figure 4B of Daldello et al 2015 are seemingly duplicated. Yet on the right-hand side, the panel is shown as broken by a vertical line, which indicates a gel discontinuation. We see of the left-hand side that the panel is actually continuous.

Update 8.09.2017. Concerns about another Jessus co-authored paper have been raised:

Dupré A, Daldello EM, Nairn AC, Jessus C, Haccard O.
Phosphorylation of ARPP19 by protein kinase A prevents meiosis resumption in Xenopus oocytes.
Nature Communications. 2014;5:3318. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4318
Figure 3B of Dupre et al 2014 contains apparently repetitive patterns (highlighted), possibly indicative of copy paste

Update 18.09.2017. Will this ever stop? With currently 9 Jessus-co-authored papers flagged on my site and on PubPeer, here comes Nr 10:

Aude Dupré, Eulalie Buffin, Chloé Roustan, Angus C. Nairn, Catherine Jessus, Olivier Haccard

The phosphorylation of ARPP19 by Greatwall renders the autoamplification of MPF independent of PKA in Xenopus oocytes
J Cell Sci 2013 : doi: 10.1242/jcs.126599

Repetitive background patterns in Dupre et al 2013, Figure 4D suggest some parts of the gel were erased and covered by copy-paste

Update 22.09.2017. For those who thought the data integrity issues in Jessus lab were ancient history, this paper Dupre et al 2017 was just published in Cell Cycle. Some say gel splicing was used to perfectly acceptable 10 years ago, but never irregular splicing like below. And this paper is just 2 months old.


Update 28.11.2017/1.12.2017:

I also learned that the investigation by l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC)  found minor errors in 3 Jessus publications, and nothing untoward whatsoever in other papers listed here and on PubPeer. I then contacted the UPMC Delegate for Ethics and integrity for the Directoire de la Recherche, Olivier Pironneau, with the UPMC President in cc, for further information.  I received no reply at all, which maybe due to this statement on Pironneau’s institutional page:

“Need to email me? (carpet baggers will be ruthlessly junked)”

Update 21.02.2018: CNRS now released the UPMC report, after I published this article. It is scary. Data manipulation was declared to be good scientific practice, while CNRS now publicly demands my head.




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29 comments on “Voinnet’s CNRS investigator Catherine Jessus with own data integrity issues

  1. Pingback: Jessus critics defiant, reactionary cock-up and Chicken of Dishonour Legion – For Better Science

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