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Journal: Marine drugs


A new antibacterial chlorinated benzophenone derivative, (±)-pestalachloride D (1), along with a related analog, (±)-pestalachloride C (2), was recently isolated from the marine-derived fungus Pestalotiopsis sp. isolated from a soft coral Sarcophyton sp. collected from Yongxing Island in the South China Sea. Both chiral HPLC analysis and single-crystal X-ray data indicated that 1 is a racemic mixture. Interestingly, 1 did not exhibit any effect in the zebrafish embryo teratogenicity assay, while 2 led to abnormal growth. The potential impact on zebrafish embryo growth is discussed based on their crystal structures. The main difference of crystal structures between 1 and 2 is that the six-member non-aromatic ring (O4, C10, C9, C8, C2', and C3') in 1 exhibits a distorted chair conformation, while 2 shows a distorted boat conformation. Moreover, compounds 1 and 2 both exhibited moderate antibacterial activity.

Concepts: Stereochemistry, Enantiomer, Solid, South China Sea, Racemic mixture, Cyclohexane conformation, East China Sea, Adderall


In order to be able to fertilize oocytes, human sperm must undergo a series of morphological and structural alterations, known as capacitation. It has been shown that the production of endogenous sperm reactive oxygen species (ROS) plays a key role in causing cells to undergo a massive acrosome reaction (AR). Astaxanthin (Asta), a photo-protective red pigment belonging to the carotenoid family, is recognized as having anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties and is present in many dietary supplements. This study evaluates the effect of Asta in a capacitating buffer which induces low ROS production and low percentages of acrosome-reacted cells (ARC). Sperm cells were incubated in the presence or absence of increasing concentrations of Asta or diamide (Diam) and analyzed for their ROS production, Tyr-phosphorylation (Tyr-P) pattern and percentages of ARC and non-viable cells (NVC). Results show that Asta ameliorated both sperm head Tyr-P and ARC values without affecting the ROS generation curve, whereas Diam succeeded in enhancing the Tyr-P level but only of the flagellum without increasing ARC values. It is suggested that Asta can be inserted in the membrane and therefore create capacitation-like membrane alteration which allow Tyr-P of the head. Once this has occurred, AR can take place and involves a higher numbers of cells.

Concepts: Organelle, Antioxidant, Sperm, Reactive oxygen species, Fertility, Spermatozoon, Germ cells, Acrosome


There is currently much interest in biological active compounds derived from natural resources, especially compounds that can efficiently act on molecular targets, which are involved in various diseases. Astaxanthin (3,3'-dihydroxy-β, β'-carotene-4,4'-dione) is a xanthophyll carotenoid, contained in Haematococcus pluvialis, Chlorella zofingiensis, Chlorococcum, and Phaffia rhodozyma. It accumulates up to 3.8% on the dry weight basis in H. pluvialis. Our recent published data on astaxanthin extraction, analysis, stability studies, and its biological activities results were added to this review paper. Based on our results and current literature, astaxanthin showed potential biological activity in in vitro and in vivo models. These studies emphasize the influence of astaxanthin and its beneficial effects on the metabolism in animals and humans. Bioavailability of astaxanthin in animals was enhanced after feeding Haematococcus biomass as a source of astaxanthin. Astaxanthin, used as a nutritional supplement, antioxidant and anticancer agent, prevents diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders, and also stimulates immunization. Astaxanthin products are used for commercial applications in the dosage forms as tablets, capsules, syrups, oils, soft gels, creams, biomass and granulated powders. Astaxanthin patent applications are available in food, feed and nutraceutical applications. The current review provides up-to-date information on astaxanthin sources, extraction, analysis, stability, biological activities, health benefits and special attention paid to its commercial applications.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Nutrition, In vivo, Dietary supplement, In vitro, Nutraceutical, Haematococcus pluvialis, Astaxanthin


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) continues to be a major problem, causing severe and intractable infections worldwide. MRSA is resistant to all beta-lactam antibiotics, and alternative treatments are limited. A very limited number of new antibiotics have been discovered over the last half-century, novel agents for the treatment of MRSA infections are urgently needed. Marinopyrrole A was reported to show antibiotic activity against MRSA in 2008. After we reported the first total synthesis of (±)-marinopyrrole A, we designed and synthesized a series of marinopyrrole derivatives. Our structure activity relationship (SAR) studies of these novel derivatives against a panel of Gram-positive pathogens in antibacterial assays have revealed that a para-trifluoromethyl analog (33) of marinopyrrole A is ≥63-, 8-, and 4-fold more potent than vancomycin against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis (MRSE), methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) and MRSA, respectively. The results provide valuable information in the search for new-generation antibiotics.

Concepts: Bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, Antibiotic resistance, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Linezolid, Vancomycin, Penicillin, Vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus


Transdermal delivery is an attractive option for drug delivery. Nevertheless, the skin is a tough barrier and only a limited number of drugs can be delivered through it. The most difficult to deliver are hydrophilic drugs. The stinging mechanism of the cnidarians is a sophisticated injection system consisting of microcapsular nematocysts, which utilize built-in high osmotic pressures to inject a submicron tubule that penetrates and delivers their contents to the prey. Here we show, for the first time, that the nematocysts of the starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis can be isolated and incorporated into a topical formulation for continuous drug delivery. We demonstrate quantitative delivery of nicotinamide and lidocaine hydrochloride as a function of microcapsular dose or drug exposure. We also show how the released submicron tubules can be exploited as a skin penetration enhancer prior to and independently of drug application. The microcapsules are non-irritant and may offer an attractive alternative for hydrophilic transdermal drug delivery.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Transdermal patch, Animal, Coral, Anthozoa, Sea anemone, Starlet sea anemone, Nematostella


Fucosylated chondroitin sulfate (FucCS) is a structurally distinct glycosaminoglycan found in sea cucumber species. It has the same backbone composition of alternating 4-linked glucuronic acid and 3-linked N-acetyl galactosamine residues within disaccharide repeating units as regularly found in mammalian chondroitin sulfates. However, FucCS has also sulfated fucosyl branching units 3-O-linked to the acid residues. The sulfation patterns of these branches vary accordingly with holothurian species and account for different biological actions and responses. FucCSs may exhibit anticoagulant, antithrombotic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antiviral, and pro-angiogenic activities, besides its beneficial effects in hemodialysis, cellular growth modulation, fibrosis and hyperglycemia. Through an historical overview, this document covers most of the science regarding the holothurian FucCS. Both structural and medical properties of this unique GAG, investigated during the last 25 years, are systematically discussed herein.

Concepts: Chondroitin sulfate, Glucosamine, Heparin, Glycosaminoglycan, Sulfate, Sea cucumber


In diatoms, the main photosynthetic pigments are chlorophylls a and c, fucoxanthin, diadinoxanthin and diatoxanthin. The marine pennate diatom Haslea ostrearia has long been known for producing, in addition to these generic pigments, a water-soluble blue pigment, marennine. This pigment, responsible for the greening of oysters in western France, presents different biological activities: allelopathic, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and growth-inhibiting. A method to extract and purify marennine has been developed, but its chemical structure could hitherto not be resolved. For decades, H. ostrearia was the only organism known to produce marennine, and can be found worldwide. Our knowledge about H. ostrearia-like diatom biodiversity has recently been extended with the discovery of several new species of blue diatoms, the recently described H. karadagensis, H. silbo sp. inedit. and H. provincialis sp. inedit. These blue diatoms produce different marennine-like pigments, which belong to the same chemical family and present similar biological activities. Aside from being a potential source of natural blue pigments, H. ostrearia-like diatoms thus present a commercial potential for aquaculture, cosmetics, food and health industries.

Concepts: Algae, Life, Species, Pigment, Kingdom, Diatom, Diatoms, Pennales


In the present review of 23 published case studies, the main objective is to report the emergence and epidemiology of ciguatera in the coastal cities of southern China. There was a sudden surge in ciguatera outbreaks in 2004. Ciguatera mostly occurred in the Guangdong Province. In Shenzhen, the incidence of ciguatera in 2004 was estimated to be over 7.5 per million people. In Foshan and Zhongshan, three large outbreaks each affecting over 100-200 subjects (caused by tiger grouper served at banquets) accounted for the much higher incidence of ciguatera in 2004 (>48.7 and >129.9 per million people). Humphead wrasse and areolated coral grouper were the other important ciguatoxic fish. In some subjects, risk factors for increased likelihood of (severe) ciguatera were present, namely concomitant alcohol consumption and ingestion of large reef fishes and CTX-rich fish parts. To prevent large outbreaks and severe illness, large apex predators from coral reefs should never be served at banquets and the public should realize the increased risk of severe symptoms due to ingestion of CTX-rich fish parts with alcohol. The systematic collection of accurate details, implementation of risk assessment process and continuing education for the public on prevention are of obvious importance.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Fish, Coral reef, Guangdong, Guangzhou, Pearl River Delta, Shenzhen, Zhongshan


Marine natural products (MNPs) are recognized for their structural complexity, diversity, and novelty. The vast majority of MNPs are pharmacologically relevant through their ability to modulate macromolecular targets underlying human diseases. Angiogenesis is a fundamental process in cancer progression and metastasis. Targeting angiogenesis through selective modulation of linked protein kinases is a valid strategy to discover novel effective tumor growth and metastasis inhibitors. An in-house marine natural products mini-library, which comprises diverse MNP entities, was submitted to the Lilly’s Open Innovation Drug Discovery platform. Accepted structures were subjected to in vitro screening to discover mechanistically novel angiogenesis inhibitors. Active hits were subjected to additional angiogenesis-targeted kinase profiling. Some natural and semisynthetic MNPs, including multiple members of the macrolide latrunculins, the macrocyclic oxaquinolizidine alkaloid araguspongine C, and the sesquiterpene quinone puupehenone, showed promising results in primary and secondary angiogenesis screening modules. These hits inhibited vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-mediated endothelial tube-like formation, with minimal cytotoxicity at relevant doses. Secondary kinase profiling identified six target protein kinases, all involved in angiogenesis signaling pathways. Molecular modeling and docking experiments aided the understanding of molecular binding interactions, identification of pharmacophoric epitopes, and deriving structure-activity relationships of active hits. Marine natural products are prolific resources for the discovery of chemically and mechanistically unique selective antiangiogenic scaffolds.

Concepts: Cancer, Signal transduction, Angiogenesis, Drug discovery, Medicinal chemistry, Natural products


Quinomycin G (1), a new analogue of echinomycin, together with a new cyclic dipeptide, cyclo-(l-Pro-4-OH-l-Leu) (2), as well as three known antibiotic compounds tirandamycin A (3), tirandamycin B (4) and staurosporine (5), were isolated from Streptomyces sp. LS298 obtained from a marine sponge Gelliodes carnosa. The planar and absolute configurations of compounds 1 and 2 were established by MS, NMR spectral data analysis and Marfey’s method. Furthermore, the differences in NMR data of keto-enol tautomers in tirandamycins were discussed for the first time. Antibacterial and anti-tumor activities of compound 1 were measured against 15 drug-sensitive/resistant strains and 12 tumor cell lines. Compound 1 exhibited moderate antibacterial activities against Staphylococcuse pidermidis, S. aureus, Enterococcus faecium, and E. faecalis with the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values ranged from 16 to 64 μg/mL. Moreover, it displayed remarkable anti-tumor activities; the highest activity was observed against the Jurkat cell line (human T-cell leukemia) with an IC50 value of 0.414 μM.

Concepts: Cell, Cancer, Bacteria, Antibiotic resistance, NMR spectroscopy, Cell culture, Enterococcus, Enterococcus faecium