Ophiobolins (Ophs) are a group of tricarbocyclic sesterterpenoids whose structures contain a tricyclic 5-8-5 carbotricyclic skeleton. Thus far, 49 natural Ophs have been reported and assigned into A–W subgroups in order of discovery. While these sesterterpenoids were first characterized as highly effective phytotoxins, later investigations demonstrated that they display a broad spectrum of biological and pharmacological characteristics such as phytotoxic, antimicrobial, nematocidal, cytotoxic, anti-influenza and inflammation-promoting activities. These bioactive molecules are promising drug candidates due to the developments of their anti-proliferative activities against a vast number of cancer cell lines, multidrug resistance (MDR) cells and cancer stem cells (CSCs). Despite numerous studies on the biological functions of Ophs, their pharmacological mechanism still requires further research. This review summarizes the chemical structures, sources, and biological activities of the oph family and discusses its mechanisms and structure–activity relationship to lay the foundation for the future developments and applications of these promising molecules.
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