Triterpenoids in echinoderms: Fundamental differences in diversity and biosynthetic pathways

Emily J.S. Claereboudt*, Guillaume Caulier, Corentin Decroo, Emmanuel Colson, Pascal Gerbaux, Michel R. Claereboudt, Hubert Schaller, Patrick Flammang, Magali Deleu, Igor Eeckhaut

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Echinoderms form a remarkable phylum of marine invertebrates that present specific chemical signatures unique in the animal kingdom. It is particularly the case for essential triterpenoids that evolved separately in each of the five echinoderm classes. Indeed, while most animals have ∆5-sterols, sea cucumbers (Holothuroidea) and sea stars (Asteroidea) also possess ∆7 and ∆9(11)-sterols, a characteristic not shared with brittle stars (Ophiuroidea), sea urchins (Echinoidea), and crinoids (Crinoidea). These particular ∆7 and ∆9(11) sterols emerged as a self-protection against membranolytic saponins that only sea cucumbers and sea stars produce as a defense mechanism. The diversity of saponins is large; several hundred molecules have been described in the two classes of these saponins (i.e., triterpenoid or steroid saponins). This review aims to highlight the diversity of triterpenoids in echinoderms by focusing on sterols and triterpenoid glycosides, but more importantly to provide an updated view of the biosynthesis of these molecules in echinoderms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number352
JournalMarine Drugs
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 13 2019


  • Echinoderms
  • Saponins
  • Sterols
  • Triterpenoids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery


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