Science paper on sense of taste gets expression of concern as university investigates – Retraction Watch

Science has published an expression of concern for a recent article on a receptor for bitter taste while the authors’ institution investigates “potential discrepancies” with a figure. 

The article, “Structural basis for strychnine activation of human bitter taste receptor TAS2R46,” was published in September of this year. 

According to the abstract: 

Taste sensing is a sophisticated chemosensory process, and bitter taste perception is mediated by type 2 taste receptors (TAS2Rs), or class T G protein–coupled receptors. Understanding the detailed molecular mechanisms behind taste sensation is hindered by a lack of experimental receptor structures. Here, we report the cryo–electron microscopy structures of human TAS2R46 complexed with chimeric mini–G protein gustducin, in both strychnine-bound and apo forms. Several features of TAS2R46 are disclosed, including distinct receptor structures that compare with known GPCRs, a new “toggle switch,” activation-related motifs, and precoupling with mini–G protein gustducin. Furthermore, the dynamic extracellular and more-static intracellular parts of TAS2R46 suggest possible diverse ligand-recognition and activation processes. This study provides a basis for further exploration of other bitter taste receptors and their therapeutic applications.

The expression of concern states that a post-publication analysis of the paper found that one figure had “potential discrepancies”: 

On 15 September 2022, Science published the Research Article “Structural basis for strychnine activation of human bitter taste receptor TAS2R46” by Weixiu Xu et al. Science editors have been made aware that the examination of data provided after publication revealed potential discrepancies with Fig S10D. This figure was used to support a proposal of pre-coupling between TAS2R46 and the G protein gustducin. Science is alerting readers to these concerns while the authors’ institution investigates further.

The corresponding authors of the paper are Zhi-Jie Liu and Tian Hua of the iHuman Institute at ShanghaiTech University in China.

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