Marine organisms are a fertile source of useful natural products

Dictionary of marine natural products 

John Blunt and Murray Munro 

London, UK: Chapman & Hall  Boca Raton, US: CRC Press 2007 | 2536pp | ?285.00 (HB, including a CD-ROM) ISBN 9780849382161 

Reviewed by Marcel Jaspars

This massive tome is a paper version of an electronic database (included in the price) containing data on compounds isolated from marine organisms, and very much follows the Chapman & Hall chemical dictionary  format. It is a moot point whether there is still a need for print versions of such databases, but in this case the advantage lies in having articles which give structural information and key references for source, isolation, spectroscopic data, biological activity, as well as some analogues. 

This information is complementary to the marine natural products database MarinLit, as the information is provided in a different format, and provides data on analogues. There is a significant amount of added value in the print version, particularly the well written introductory chapters on structural types containing relevant examples from marine sources and most importantly one on the classification of organisms with some commentary on the chemotaxonomy of various taxa. The paper version has several indices, including compound name, compound type, compounds organised by taxum, but unfortunately no formula index. 

The format of the electronic dictionary suffers from several design problems. From a natural product perspective, it would be important to 

include full taxonomy data from phylum to species to allow chemotaxonomic searching. Currently even genus/species searching is complicated and does not always yield accurate output. I found text searching unnecessarily complicated with its reliance on drop-down menus and not free text entry, especially for compound names and authors. The inclusion of only the first author in this field limits the value of author searching.The structural drawing program is dated and has limited substructure searching capability. It would be useful to allow import from major chemical drawing packages, and for the search export function to give structures and literature data. As a minimum a hitlist providing all structures should be included to allow rapid visual assessment of any search output. If these problems were rectified, this would be a truly useful product.