The neuroprotective effects of theanine and catechins contained in green tea are discussed. Although the death of cultured rat cortical neurons was induced by the application of glutamic acid, this neuronal death was suppressed with exposure to theanine. The death of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons caused by transient forebrain ischemia in the gerbil was inhibited with the ventricular preadministration of theanine. The neuronal death of the hippocampal CA3 region by kainate was also prevented by the administration of theanine. Theanine has a higher binding capacity for the AMPA/kainate receptors than for NMDA receptors, although the binding capacity in all cases is markedly less than that of glutamic acid. The results of the present study suggest that the mechanism of the neuroprotective effect of theanine is related not only to the glutamate receptor but also to other mechanisms such as the glutamate transporter, although further studies are needed. One of the onset mechanisms for arteriosclerosis, a major factor in ischemic cerebrovascular disease, is probably the oxidative alteration of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by active oxygen species. The oxidative alterations of LDL were shown to be prevented by tea catechins. Scavenging of ·O2− was also exhibited by tea catechins. The neuroprotective effects of theanine and catechins contained in green tea are a focus of considerable attention, and further studies are warranted.
2002 The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan