Soft corals (Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Octocorallia) are a diverse group of marine invertebrates that inhabit various marine environments in tropical and subtropical areas. Several species are recognized as prolific sources of compounds with a wide array of biological activities. Recent advances in analytical techniques, supported by robust statistical analyses, have allowed the analysis and characterization of the metabolome present in a single living organism. In this study, a liquid chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry metabolomic approach was applied to analyze the metabolite composition of 28 soft corals present in the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Multivariate data analysis was used to correlate the chemical fingerprints of soft corals with their cytotoxic activity against tumor cell lines for anticancer purpose. Some diterpenoids were identified as specific markers to discriminate between cytotoxic and non-cytotoxic crude extracts of soft corals against tumor cell lines. In the models generated from the comparative analysis of PLS-DA for tumor lines, A549 and SiHa, the diterpene 13-keto-1,11-dolabell-3(E),7(E),12(18)-triene yielded a high score in the variable importance in projection. These results highlight the potential of metabolomic approaches towards the identification of cytotoxic agents against cancer of marine origin. This workflow can be useful in several studies, mainly those that are time consuming, such as traditional bioprospecting of marine natural products.
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