1. Caffeine biosynthesis was studied by following the incorporation of 14C into the products of L-[Me-14C]methionine metabolism in tea shoot tips. 2. After administration of a ‘pulse’ of L-[Me-14C]methionine, almost all of the L-[Me-14C]methionine supplied disappeared within 1 h, and 14C-labelled caffeine synthesis increased throughout the experimental periods, whereas the radioactivities of an unknown compound and theobromine were highest at 3 h after the uptake of L-[Me-14C]methionine, followed by a steady decrease. There was also slight incorporation of the label into 7-methylxanthine, serine, glutamate and aspartate, disappearing by 36 h after the absorption of L-[Me-14C]methionine. 3. The radioactivities of nucleic acids derived from L-[Me-14C]methionine increased rapidly during the first 12 h incubation period and then decreased steadily. Sedimentation analysis of nucleic acids by sucrose-gradient centrifugation showed that methylation of nucleic acids in tea shoot tips occurred mainly in the tRNA fraction. The main product among the methylated bases in tea shoot tips was identified as 1-methyladenine. 4. The results indicated that the purine ring in caffeine is derived from the purine nucleotides in the nucleotide pool rather than in nucleic acids. A metabolic scheme to show the production of caffeine and related methylxanthines from the nucleotides in tea plants is discussed.

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