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Planta. 2009 Feb;229(3):559-68. doi: 10.1007/s00425-008-0847-5. Epub 2008 Nov 19.

Occurrence of theobromine synthase genes in purine alkaloid-free species of Camellia plants.

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Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Ochanomizu University, Otsuka, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 112-8610, Japan.


Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) and theobromine (3,7-dimethylxanthine) are purine alkaloids that are present in high concentrations in plants of some species of Camellia. However, most members of the genus Camellia contain no purine alkaloids. Tracer experiments using [8-(14)C]adenine and [8-(14)C]theobromine showed that the purine alkaloid pathway is not fully functional in leaves of purine alkaloid-free species. In five species of purine alkaloid-free Camellia plants, sufficient evidence was obtained to show the occurrence of genes that are homologous to caffeine synthase. Recombinant enzymes derived from purine alkaloid-free species showed only theobromine synthase activity. Unlike the caffeine synthase gene, these genes were expressed more strongly in mature tissue than in young tissue.

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