Natural matrices comprise a continuous resource of immeasurable biological activities and chemical entities. The diversity of marine ecosystems has provided a unique source of chemical compounds with potential bioactivities that could lead to new drug candidates. In fact, as many marine-living organisms are soft bodied and/or sessile, over evolutionary time marine eukaryotes have developed an array of metabolites and strategies by which they protect themselves against external aggressions. Research involving marine natural products revealed a broad spectrum of pharmacological activities, as anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antitumor and cytotoxic, and the capacity to affect the cardiovascular, immune and nervous system, among others.
Fatty acids (FA) are metabolites universally present in all organisms, where they play a number of biological roles, such as building blocks in biological membranes and signalling molecules.
In addition to the known set of FA, marine organisms usually display molecules with a very rich chemistry and have been the source of many novel structures that frequently display marked pharmacological properties.
As pharmacological research with marine chemicals continues to be extremely active, this review will focus the biological role and potential applications of fatty acids from marine organisms such as sponges, echinoderms and molluscs, with particular emphasis on their application in cancer, inflammation, tuberculosis and malaria.