Theacrine, a purine alkaloid obtained from Camellia assamica var. kucha, attenuates restraint stress-provoked liver damage in mice

J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Jul 3;61(26):6328-35. doi: 10.1021/jf400982c. Epub 2013 Jun 18.


Theacrine (1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid), a purine alkaloid, has proven to be beneficial in maintaining several brain functions and is being studied for potential medicinal uses in recent years. In this study, we isolated theacrine from Camellia assamica var. kucha and investigated its protective effects on liver damage induced by restraint stress in mice. Results showed that 18 h of restraint stress could induce liver damage, with an obvious increase in levels of plasma alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). This finding was further confirmed by hepatic pathological examination, which showed inflammatory cell infiltration and focal necrosis of hepatocytes. However, oral administration of theacrine (10, 20, 30 mg/kg for 7 consecutive days) was found to decrease plasma ALT and AST levels, reduce hepatic mRNA levels of inflammatory mediators (IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-6, and IFN-γ), and reverse the histologic damages in stressed mice. Simultaneously, theacrine also significantly decreased the content of malondialdehyde and increased oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) level in the plasma and liver of stressed mice. These results suggested that the protective effects of theacrine on stress-induced liver damage might be correlated with its antioxidative activity. The antioxidative capacity of theacrine was further evaluated by in vitro ORAC and cellular antioxidant activity assay. The results suggested that the antioxidative capacity of theacrine was not due to the direct action on free radical clearance. Moreover, the elevated activities and gene expressions of superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase, as well as the reduced activity of xanthine oxidase by theacrine treatment in stressed mice suggested that the antioxidative activity might be due to the strengthening of the antioxidant system in vivo. On the basis of the above results, theacrine is possibly a good candidate for protecting against or treating lifestyle diseases and might contribute to the study of natural products.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Camellia / chemistry*
  • China
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Hepatic Insufficiency / etiology
  • Hepatic Insufficiency / prevention & control*
  • Liver / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Protective Agents / isolation & purification
  • Protective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Restraint, Physical
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Stress, Psychological / diet therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Uric Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Uric Acid / isolation & purification
  • Uric Acid / therapeutic use


  • Protective Agents
  • Uric Acid
  • 1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid