Integrated transcriptomics and metabolomics analysis of catechins, caffeine and theanine biosynthesis in tea plant (Camellia sinensis) over the course of seasons.

Research paper by An-Dong AD Gong, Shuai-Bin SB Lian, Nan-Nan NN Wu, Yong-Jie YJ Zhou, Shi-Qi SQ Zhao, Li-Min LM Zhang, Lin L Cheng, Hong-Yu HY Yuan

Indexed on: 02 Jul '20Published on: 01 Jul '20Published in: BMC Plant Biology


Catechins, caffeine, and theanine as three important metabolites in the tea leaves play essential roles in the formation of specific taste and shows potential health benefits to humans. However, the knowledge on the dynamic changes of these metabolites content over seasons, as well as the candidate regulatory factors, remains largely undetermined. An integrated transcriptomic and metabolomic approach was used to analyze the dynamic changes of three mainly metabolites including catechins, caffeine, and theanine, and to explore the potential influencing factors associated with these dynamic changes over the course of seasons. We found that the catechins abundance was higher in Summer than that in Spring and Autumn, and the theanine abundance was significantly higher in Spring than that in Summer and Autumn, whereas caffeine exhibited no significant changes over three seasons. Transcriptomics analysis suggested that genes in photosynthesis pathway were significantly down-regulated which might in linkage to the formation of different phenotypes and metabolites content in the tea leaves of varied seasons. Fifty-six copies of nine genes in catechins biosynthesis, 30 copies of 10 genes in caffeine biosynthesis, and 12 copies of six genes in theanine biosynthesis were detected. The correlative analysis further presented that eight genes can be regulated by transcription factors, and highly correlated with the changes of metabolites abundance in tea-leaves. Sunshine intensity as a key factor can affect photosynthesis of tea plants, further affect the expression of major Transcription factors (TFs) and structural genes in, and finally resulted in the various amounts of catechins, caffeine and theaine in tea-leaves over three seasons. These findings provide new insights into abundance and influencing factors of metabolites of tea in different seasons, and further our understanding in the formation of flavor, nutrition and medicinal function.