Structure elucidation studies on natural products are reviewed emphasizing extremely small sample amounts. Previous studies on insect pheromones, periplanones, and bean-originating kairomones, glycinoeclepins, are described briefly. Recent examples are selected from marine natural products such as ciguatoxin, dolastatin-3, and aurisides. A more detailed description is given of a sperm-activating and attracting factor (SAAF), which may be the smallest sample amount used in the structure elucidation of novel non-peptidic natural products. SAAF was isolated from the eggs of the ascidian, Ciona intestinalis, and its structure was deduced with only approximately 4 microg (6 nmol) of sample. Based upon the proposed structure, two epimers were synthesized from chenodeoxycholic acid in 17 steps, leading to the identification of SAAF as a novel sterol sulfate.
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