Distinguished Professor of Oceanography

Research Interests

  • Chemistry of marine plants, microorganisms and invertebrate animals.
  • Utilization of marine-derived compounds for the treatment of various human diseases, in particular cancer and infectious diseases.


  • B.S., California State Polytechnic University
  • M.S., San Jose State University
  • Ph.D., University of California, Riverside

Recent Publications

Nakatsuji, T, Chen TH, Butcher AM, Trzoss LL, Nam SJ, Shirakawa KT, Zhou W, Oh J, Otto M, Fenical W, Gallo RL.  2018.  A commensal strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis protects against skin neoplasia. Science Advances. 4   10.1126/sciadv.aao4502   AbstractWebsite

We report the discovery that strains of Staphylococcus epidermidis produce 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine ( 6-HAP), a molecule that inhibits DNA polymerase activity. In culture, 6-HAP selectively inhibited proliferation of tumor lines but did not inhibit primary keratinocytes. Resistance to 6-HAP was associated with the expression of mitochondrial amidoxime reducing components, enzymes that were not observed in cells sensitive to this compound. Intravenous injection of 6-HAP in mice suppressed the growth of B16F10 melanoma without evidence of systemic toxicity. Colonization of mice with an S. epidermidis strain producing 6-HAP reduced the incidence of ultraviolet-induced tumors compared to mice colonized by a control strain that did not produce 6-HAP. S. epidermidis strains producing 6-HAP were found in the metagenome from multiple healthy human subjects, suggesting that the microbiome of some individuals may confer protection against skin cancer. These findings show a new role for skin commensal bacteria in host defense.

da Silva, RM, Guaratini T, Jimenez PC, Fenical W, Costa-Lotufo LV, Vessecchi R, Lopes NP.  2018.  Mass spectrometry analysis of protonated marine natural product seriniquinone. Journal of the Brazilian Chemical Society. 29:1162-1166.   10.21577/0103-5053.20180037   AbstractWebsite

Seriniquinone is a natural quinone isolated from a rare marine bacterium of the genus Serinicoccus. This secondary metabolite has been shown to have anticancer properties, which has raised attention of the scientific community. In this short report, we present the first investigation of the gas-phase chemistry fragmentation reactions of seriniquinone in electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS/MS), to be further applied in pharmacokinetics and metabolism studies. All the proposals herein were supported by computational chemistry.

Asolkar, RN, Singh A, Jensen PR, Aalbersberg W, Carte BK, Feussner KD, Subramani R, DiPasquale A, Rheingold AL, Fenical W.  2017.  Marinocyanins, cytotoxic bromo-phenazinone meroterpenoids from a marine bacterium from the streptomycete Glade MAR4. Tetrahedron. 73:2234-2241.   10.1016/j.tet.2017.03.003   AbstractWebsite

Six cytotoxic and antimicrobial metabolites of a new bromo-phenazinone class, the marinocyanins A-F (1-6), were isolated together with the known bacterial metabolites 2-bromo-1-hydroxyphenazine (7), lavanducyanin (8, WS-9659A) and its chlorinated analog WS-9659B (9). These metabolites were purified by bioassay-guided fractionation of the extracts of our MAR4 marine actinomycete strains CNS-284 and CNY-960. The structures of the new compounds were determined by detailed spectroscopic methods and marinocyanin A (1) was confirmed by crystallographic methods. The marinocyanins represent the first bromo-phenazinones with an N-isoprenoid substituent in the skeleton. Marinocyanins A-F show strong to weak cytotoxicity against HCT-116 human colon carcinoma and possess modest antimicrobial activities against Staphylococcus aureus and amphotericin-resistant Candida albicans. (C) 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Lee, HW, Choi H, Nam SJ, Fenical W, Kim H.  2017.  Potent Inhibition of Monoamine Oxidase B by a Piloquinone from Marine-Derived Streptomyces sp CNQ-027. Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology. 27:785-790.   10.4014/jmb.1612.12025   AbstractWebsite

Two piloquinone derivatives isolated from Streptomyces sp. CNQ-027 were tested for the inhibitory activities of two isoforms of monoamine oxidase (MAO), which catalyzes monoamine neurotransmitters. The piloquinone 4,7-dihydroxy-3-methyl-2-(4-methyl-1-oxopentyl)-6H-dibenzo[b,d]pyran-6-one (1) was found to be a highly potent inhibitor of human MAO-B, with an IC50 value of 1.21 mu M; in addition, it was found to be highly effective against MAO-A, with an IC50 value of 6.47 mu M. Compound 1 was selective, but not extremely so, for MAO-B compared with MAO-A, with a selectivity index value of 5.35. Compound 1,8-dihydroxy-2-methyl-3-(4-methyl-1-oxopentyl)-9,10-phenanthrenedione (2) was moderately effective for the inhibition of MAO-B (IC50 = 14.50 mu M) but not for MAO-A (IC50 > 80 mu M). There was no time-dependency in inhibition of MAO-A or -B by compound 1, and the MAO-A and -B activities were almost completely recovered in the dilution experiments with an excess amount of compound 1. Compound 1 showed competitive inhibition for MAO-A and -B, with K-i values of 0.573 and 0.248 mu M, respectively. These results suggest that piloquinones from a microbial source could be potent reversible MAO inhibitors and may be useful lead compounds for developing MAO enzyme inhibitors to treat related disorders, such as depression, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease.

Yang, I, Yoon J, Kim D, Hahn D, Nam SJ, Fenical W.  2017.  4Z- and 4E-12-deoxydihydrokromycins, two naturally occurring kromycin aglycones of pikromycin from Streptomyces sp. Tetrahedron Letters. 58:2322-2324.   10.1016/j.tetlet.2017.03.088   AbstractWebsite

HPLC-UV guided isolation for the culture broth extract of the marine-derived bacterium Streptomyces sp. has led to the two 14-membered macrolides, 4Z- (1) and 4E-12-dehydroxykromycins (2). The chemical structures of compounds 1 and 2 were elucidated by spectral data, while the absolute stereochemistry of 1 and 2 were determined by application of circular dichroism (CD) and analysis of X-ray crystallographic data. (C) 2017 Published by Elsevier Ltd.