Bioactive Marine Xanthones: A Review

Mar Drugs. 2022 Jan 8;20(1):58. doi: 10.3390/md20010058.


The marine environment is an important source of specialized metabolites with valuable biological activities. Xanthones are a relevant chemical class of specialized metabolites found in this environment due to their structural variety and their biological activities. In this work, a comprehensive literature review of marine xanthones reported up to now was performed. A large number of bioactive xanthone derivatives (169) were identified, and their structures, biological activities, and natural sources were described. To characterize the chemical space occupied by marine-derived xanthones, molecular descriptors were calculated. For the analysis of the molecular descriptors, the xanthone derivatives were grouped into five structural categories (simple, prenylated, O-heterocyclic, complex, and hydroxanthones) and six biological activities (antitumor, antibacterial, antidiabetic, antifungal, antiviral, and miscellaneous). Moreover, the natural product-likeness and the drug-likeness of marine xanthones were also assessed. Marine xanthone derivatives are rewarding bioactive compounds and constitute a promising starting point for the design of other novel bioactive molecules.

Keywords: antimicrobial; antitumor; drug-like; marine products; molecular descriptors; natural products; xanthone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms
  • Drug Design
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Xanthones / chemistry*


  • Xanthones