JOURNAL ARTICLE

Seasonal Theanine Accumulation and Related Gene Expression in the Roots and Leaf Buds of Tea Plants ( Camellia Sinensis L.)

Fang Li, Chunxia Dong, Tianyuan Yang, Jingzhen Ma, Shupei Zhang, Chaoling Wei, Xiaochun Wan, Zhaoliang Zhang
Frontiers in Plant Science 2019, 10: 1397
31749819
Theanine, a unique and abundant non-proteinogenic amino acid in tea, confers to the tea infusion its umami taste and multiple health benefits. Its content in new tea shoots is dynamic in winter and spring. However, its seasonal accumulation pattern and the underlying regulation mechanism of tea plants remain largely unknown. In this study, we measured the theanine contents in the roots and leaf buds of 13 tea cultivars at four time points from winter to spring (Dec. 12, Mar. 1, Mar. 23, and Apr. 13). We found theanine accumulated significantly in the roots to as high as ∼6% dry weight. We found theanine content in the roots was constant or slightly decreased on Mar. 1 compared with Dec.12 but increased consistently on Mar. 23 and then decreased on Apr. 13 in all 13 cultivars. In the leaf buds, theanine content kept increasing from Mar. 1 to Mar. 23 and decreasing from Apr. 13 in most of the 13 cultivars, meaning it was probably both season- and developmental stage-dependent. The expression of theanine biosynthesis and amino acid transporter genes in the roots and buds at the four time points was then examined. The correlation analyses between the gene expression and theanine content suggested the expression of theanine-biosynthesis genes was generally and negatively correlated with theanine content; however, the expression of amino acid transporter genes including CsLHT was generally and positively correlated with theanine contents. Finally, we showed that CsLHT has theanine transport activity. Taken together, this study provided insight into the seasonal regulation of theanine biosynthesis and transport in tea plants during winter and spring.

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