Possible activation by the green tea amino acid theanine of mammalian target of rapamycin signaling in undifferentiated neural progenitor cells in vitro

Takeshi Takarada, Noritaka Nakamichi, Ryota Nakazato, Takami Kakuda, Hiroshi Kokubo, Shinsuke Ikeno, Saki Nakamura, Nobuyuki Kuramoto, Eiichi Hinoi, Yukio Yoneda

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9 Citations (Scopus)


We have shown marked promotion of both proliferation and neuronal differentiation in pluripotent P19 cells exposed to the green tea amino acid theanine, which is a good substrate for SLC38A1 responsible for glutamine transport. In this study, we evaluated the activity of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase pathway, which participates in protein translation, cell growth and autophagy in a manner relevant to intracellular glutamine levels, in murine neural progenitor cells exposed to theanine. Exposure to theanine promoted the phosphorylation of mTOR and downstream proteins in neurospheres from embryonic mouse neocortex. Although stable overexpression of SLC38A1 similarly facilitated phosphorylation of mTOR-relevant proteins in undifferentiated P19 cells, theanine failed to additionally accelerate the increased phosphorylation in these stable transfectants. Theanine accelerated the formation of neurospheres from murine embryonic neocortex and adult hippocampus, along with facilitation of both 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine incorporation and 3-(4,5-dimethyl-2-thiazolyl)-2,5-diphenyl-2H-tetrazolium bromide reduction in embryonic neurospheres. In embryonic neurospheres previously exposed to theanine, a significant increase was seen in the number of cells immunoreactive for a neuronal marker protein after spontaneous differentiation. These results suggest that theanine activates the mTOR signaling pathway for proliferation together with accelerated neurogenesis in murine undifferentiated neural progenitor cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-95
Number of pages7
JournalBiochemistry and Biophysics Reports
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2016



  • Glutamine
  • MTOR
  • Neural progenitors
  • Neurogenesis
  • SLC38A1
  • Theanine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry

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