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Trends Plant Sci. 2001 Sep;6(9):407-13.

Caffeine: a well known but little mentioned compound in plant science.

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  • 1Metabolic Biology Group, Dept Biology, Ochanomizu University, Otsuka, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-8610, Japan.


Caffeine, a purine alkaloid, is a key component of many popular drinks, most notably tea and coffee, yet most plant scientists know little about its biochemistry and molecular biology. A gene from tea leaves encoding caffeine synthase, an N-methyltransferase that catalyses the last two steps of caffeine biosynthesis, has been cloned and the recombinant enzyme produced in E. coli. Similar genes have been isolated from coffee leaves but the recombinant protein has a different substrate specificity to the tea enzyme. The cloning of caffeine biosynthesis genes opens up the possibility of using genetic engineering to produce naturally decaffeinated tea and coffee.

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