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J Plant Physiol. 2004 Apr;161(4):363-9.

Biosynthesis, accumulation and degradation of theobromine in developing Theobroma cacao fruits.

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Department of Advanced Biosciences, Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Ochanomizu University, 2-1-1, Otsuka, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 112-8610, Japan.


We have studied the purine alkaloid content and purine metabolism in Theobroma cacao fruits at differing growth stages: Stage A (young small fruit, fresh weight, ca. 2 g); stage B (medium size fruit, fresh weight, ca. 100 g) and stage C (large size, fresh weight, ca. 500 g). The major purine alkaloid in stage A fruits (mainly pericarp) was theobromine (0.7 micromol g(-1) fresh weight), followed by caffeine (0.09 micromol g(-1) fresh weight). The theobromine content of the pericarp decreased sharply with tissue age, and the caffeine content decreased gradually. A large amount of theobromine (22 micromol g(-1) fresh weight) had accumulated in seeds (mainly cotyledons) of stage C fruits. Theobromine was found also in the seed coat and placenta. Tracer experiments with [8-(14)C]adenine show that the major sites of theobromine synthesis are the young pericarp and cotyledons of T. cacao fruits. Limited amounts of purine alkaloids may be transported from the pericarp to seed tissue, but most purine alkaloids that accumulated in seeds appeared to be synthesised in cotyledons. Degradation of [8-(14)C]theobromine and [8-(14)C]caffeine to CO2 via 3-methylxanthine and ureides (allantoin and allantoic acid) was detected only in the pericarp of stage C fruits.

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