The chemical defenses of the Brazilian gorgonian octocoral Lophogorgia violacea Pallas have been investigated using feeding preference experiments performed in situ with an ecologically relevant, natural assemblage of predatory fishes. Feeding experiments incorporating the crude extract of the animal into palatable foods showed that the organic constituents of L. Violacea provide a powerful chemical deterrence toward consumption by generalist fish carnivores. Bioassay-guided fractionation of the extract and evaluation of the fractions and purified compounds obtained in the same in situ assay revealed that a complex mixture of furanocembranolides was responsible for the overall feeding deterrence observed. The most potent feeding deterrent identified was lophotoxin (1), followed by two previously reported and structurally related compounds, deoxylophotoxin (2), and 13-acetoxy-11 beta ,12 beta -epoxypukalide (3), as well as two new furanocembranolides: 7-acetoxy-8-hydroxylophotoxin (4) and 3-methoxy-8-hydroxylophotoxin (5). Lophotoxin (1), a neurotoxin originally isolated from the Pacific gorgonian L. Rigida, was the most potent feeding deterrent among the furanocembranolides isolated. However, the four other related furanocembranolides (2-5) appear to contribute, in an additive manner, to the overall deterrent effects observed. These results add to earlier studies providing further evidence that compounds of this structural class provide effective chemical defenses against fish predators in both temperate and tropical environments.
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