Experimental Evidence of the Presence of Bimolecular Caffeine/Catechin Complexes in Green Tea Extracts

J Nat Prod. 2018 Nov 26;81(11):2338-2347. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.8b00168. Epub 2018 Oct 29.


A hypothesis on the peculiar pharmacological behavior of biologically active natural compounds is based on the occurrence of molecular interactions originating from the high complexity of the natural matrix, following the rules of supramolecular chemistry. In this context, some investigations were performed to establish unequivocally the presence of caffeine/catechin complexes in green tea extracts (GTEs). 1H NMR spectroscopy was utilized to compare profiles from GTEs with caffeine/catechin mixtures in different molar ratios, showing that peaks related to caffeine in GTEs are generally upfield shifted compared to those of free caffeine. On the other hand, ESIMS experiments performed on GTE, by means of precursor ion scan and neutral loss scan experiments, proved unequivocally the presence of caffeine/catechin complexes. Further investigations were performed by an LC-MS method operating at high-resolution conditions. The reconstructed ion chromatograms of the exact mass ions corresponding to caffeine/catechin species have been obtained, showing the presence of complexes of caffeine with gallate-type catechins. Furthermore, this last approach evidenced the presence of the same complex with different structures, consequently exhibiting different retention times. Both MSE and product ion MS/MS methods confirm the nature of caffeine/catechin complexes of the detected ions, showing the formation of protonated caffeine.

MeSH terms

  • Caffeine / analysis*
  • Caffeine / chemistry
  • Camellia sinensis / chemistry*
  • Catechin / analysis*
  • Catechin / chemistry
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Molecular Structure
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry*
  • Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization


  • Plant Extracts
  • Caffeine
  • Catechin