Theacrine: A purine alkaloid from Camellia assamica var. kucha with a hypnotic property via the adenosine system

Neurosci Lett. 2017 Oct 17:659:48-53. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2017.08.063. Epub 2017 Aug 31.


Theacrine (l,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid), a purine alkaloid from Camellia assamica var. kucha, has diverse pharmacological properties, including sedative and hypnotic activities, anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities, antidepressant effects, and a protective effect against stress-provoked liver damage. The present study aims to investigate the possible mechanism of the hypnotic activity of theacrine. The results revealed that theacrine significantly enhanced pentobarbital-induced sleep at a dose of 3.0mg/kg (i.g.) in mice. Sleep parameter analysis by EEG and EMG showed that theacrine obviously shortened wake time and increased NREM sleep time and that theacrine almost had no effect on REM sleep. Meanwhile, theacrine markedly attenuated caffeine (a nonselective antagonist of adenosine receptor)-induced insomnia. In pretreatment with the adenosine A1 receptor antagonist DPCPX and the A2A receptor antagonist SCH 58261, theacrine significantly reversed the decrease in sleeping time in pentobarbital-treated mice. In addition, theacrine also markedly increased the adenosine content in the hippocampus of rats. These results suggested that theacrine might mediate the adenosine system to augment pentobarbital-induced sleep.

Keywords: Adenosine system; EEG and EMG; Hypnotic; Pentobarbital-induced sleep; Theacrine.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / metabolism*
  • Alkaloids / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Caffeine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Camellia / chemistry*
  • Drug Synergism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Pentobarbital / pharmacology
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / chemically induced
  • Sleep Stages / drug effects
  • Triazoles / pharmacology
  • Uric Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Uric Acid / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Uric Acid / pharmacology
  • Xanthines / pharmacology


  • 5-amino-7-(2-phenylethyl)-2-(2-furyl)pyrazolo(4,3-e)-1,2,4-triazolo(1,5-c)pyrimidine
  • Alkaloids
  • Pyrimidines
  • Triazoles
  • Xanthines
  • Uric Acid
  • Caffeine
  • 1,3-dipropyl-8-cyclopentylxanthine
  • 1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid
  • Pentobarbital
  • Adenosine