Chronic administration of theobromine inhibits mTOR signal in rats

Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2019 May;124(5):575-581. doi: 10.1111/bcpt.13175. Epub 2018 Dec 12.


Theobromine is a caffeine derivative and the primary methylxanthine in Theobroma cacao. We have shown previously that theobromine inhibits the Akt-mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signal in vitro. In this study, we investigated whether orally administered theobromine could inhibit mTOR activity in rats. mTOR is phosphorylated by Akt. Thus, the level of phosphorylated mTOR was used as an index of mTOR activity. Male Wistar rats were divided into two groups. The control group (CN) was fed a normal diet, while the theobromine group (TB) was fed a diet supplemented with 0.05% theobromine for 40 days. We measured body-weights and tissue weights, food and water intake, blood count, concentrations of theobromine in the plasma, liver and brain, and the levels of phosphorylated mTOR in the liver and brain. Orally administered theobromine did not affect the body-weights and tissue weights, food and water intake, and blood count as determined by comparison with levels in rats that were fed standard chow. Theobromine was detected in the plasma, liver and brain obtained from TB rats, but was not detected in tissues obtained from CN rats. The phosphorylated mTOR levels in the liver and brain were significantly lower in TB rats than in CN rats. The results suggest that oral theobromine inhibits mTOR signalling in vivo.

Keywords: 4E-BP1; Akt; cerebral cortex; liver; mTOR; theobromine.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Diet
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt / metabolism
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Theobromine / administration & dosage*
  • Theobromine / blood
  • Theobromine / metabolism


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Eif4ebp1 protein, rat
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • mTOR protein, rat
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Theobromine