Distribution, Biosynthesis and Catabolism of Methylxanthines in Plants

  • Hiroshi AshiharaEmail author
  • Misako Kato
  • Alan Crozier
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 200)


Methylxanthines and methyluric acids are purine alkaloids that are synthesized in quantity in a limited number of plant species, including tea, coffee and cacao. This review summarizes the pathways, enzymes and related genes of caffeine biosynthesis. The main biosynthetic pathway is a sequence consisting of xanthosine → 7-methylxanthosine → 7-methylxanthine → theobromine → caffeine. Catabolism of caffeine starts with its conversion to theophylline. Typically, this reaction is very slow in caffeine-accumulating plants. Finally, the ecological roles of caffeine and the production of decaffeinated coffee plants are discussed.


Biosynthesis Caffeine Catabolism Coffee N-Methyltransferase Tea Theobromine 


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Copyright information

© Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Humanities and SciencesOchanomizu UniversityTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Plant Products and Human Nutrition Group, Division of Developmental Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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