Source: Caribbean sea whip Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae (CNIDARIA)
Activity: anti-inflammatory and analgesic agent
Status: in use as a commercial skin cream additive; in preclinical development for medical applications

The pseudopterosins were isolated from a Caribbean soft coral species called a sea whip (Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae). They belong to a class of compounds known as tricyclic diterpene glycosides.

Pseudopterosins have been shown to possess potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relief) properties. They appear to work by inhibiting the synthesis of eicosanoids, (locally functioning hormone-like substances) in specific white blood cells called polymorphonuclear leukocytes. The extreme selectivity with which the pseudopterosins target their activity is intriguing to researchers. They appear to be pharmacologically distinct from other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and their mechanism of action appears to be novel as well.

The pseudopterosins have been licensed to a pharmaceutical firm for medical use as anti-inflammatory drugs. At least one of the pseudopterosins has been brought through preclinical tests and an Investigational New Drug (IND) application has been filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A pseudopterosin extract has found its way to the non-pharmaceutical marketplace as an additive to prevent skin irritation in a line of Estèe Lauder cosmetic skin care products.

NCBI PubMed biomedical literature citations and abstracts - [ LINK ]


Kijjoa A and P Sawangwong. 2004. Drugs and cosmetics from the sea (review paper). Mar. Drugs 2004:73-82.

Kohl, A.C., and R.G. Kerr. 2003. Pseudopterosin Biosynthesis: Aromatization of the Diterpene Cyclase Product, Elisabethatriene. Mar. Drugs 2003: 54-65.