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Abstract

Theanine, a naturally occurring non-proteinic amino acid found in tea leaves, has demonstrated wide-ranging physiological activity, from lowering blood pressure to enhancing the anti-tumor activity of chemotherapeutic drugs. The chiral nature of theanine suggests that enantiospecificity plays a significant role in its various pharmacological functions. Using the Chirobiotic T (teicoplanin) chiral stationary phase, native and derivatized theanine enantiomers were separated and detected via high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled to atmospheric pressure ionization mass spectrometry (API-MS). With the use of flow rates compatible with each ionization source, native theanine standards achieved excellent sensitivity and detection limits (10 ng/mL) for both atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) and electrospray ionization (ESI). Optimum sensitivity and detection limits for derivatized theanine standards were achieved using ESI-MS. The enantiomeric composition of six commercially available L-theanine samples was evaluated using the high-flow APCI-MS method and confirmed with photodiode array detection. Five of the six products contained significant amounts of D-theanine. Only one product, SunTheanine®, appeared to contain only the L-theanine enantiomer. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.