A representative western blot…

I ran across this scary figure in a 2011 paper by a group from a large pharmaceutical company. It’s in a well-ranked specialty journal that doesn’t normally publish a lot of western blot data, and this is the only western blot found in the entire article. According to the figure legend, it is a “representative western blot from three independent experiments”.  The unmodified (but relabelled/anonymized) version is shown below.

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There are nice black boxes drawn around each blot, which would (conventionally) suggest that the enclosed bands were all developed on the same film. However, there’s something fishy here, which is more evident by increasing the contrast:

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Needless to say, this is not the right way to assemble a western blot figure. Did these pasted-together bands come from the same blot, from the same experiment, or from the same exposure? I guess the reader needs to trust that the authors’ western blot “artwork” represents the reality of some experiment they performed, but this is a large leap of faith.

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