The five bromotryptophans

S. Bittner, R. Scherzer, E. Harlev

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The five regioisomeric bromotryptophans (BrTrps) play an important role in the life of sponges and lower marine invertebrates. These bromo-amino acids, which are formed by post-translational modifications, are not found in nature in their free state, but rather are involved in more complex structures. Any of the BrTrps can be part of a peptide, a cyclic peptide, an indole alkaloid, an ergot alkaloid, a macrocycle and others. The present review covers the synthesis, physical and spectroscopic properties of the five BrTrps. It also describes the many exiting pharmacological and biological activities played by the BrTrps and by various secondary metabolites containing brominated tryptophan moieties. Of special interest are cyclic peptides containing the 2-BrTrp unit, which were isolated from marine sponges e.g. konbamide, orbiculamide A, the various keramamides, jaspamide eusynstyelamide and more. Important families of non-cyclic peptides containing the 6-BrTrp, include the styelins, the conotoxins, the cathelicidins and several constrained macrocyclic peptides. Many marine secondary BrTrp-containing, non-peptidic metabolites also display a remarkable spectrum of bioactivities, which can be harnessed for therapeutic and other purposes. Examples are: barettin, bromotryptanthrin, tetraacetyl clionamide, cyclocinamide A, clavicipitic acid, various brominated β-carbolines. In this review we have presented the various synthetic routes leading to the preparation of the five BrTrps and many of its derivatives. Also, we have introduced the reader to many synthetic routes leading to BrTrp-containing non-peptidic natural products. Although the functional role of the various compounds in the human body is only poorly understood, its effects were extensively studied. Almost all of these compounds exhibit important therapeutic properties e.g. antifungal, antimicrobial, antihelmintic, insecticidal ichthyotoxic and anticancer activity. In the present review attempts have been made to provide synopsis, synthesis and symbiosis of chemical and biological actions, which may provide future guidance and facilitate further research in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-42
Number of pages24
JournalAmino Acids
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2007


  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • Bromotryptophan
  • Cyclic peptides
  • Post-translational bromination
  • Synthesis
  • Tryptophan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'The five bromotryptophans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this