• Allocation;
  • arginine;
  • growth;
  • polyphenols;
  • sugars;
  • theanine


The concentrations of free amino acids (AA) and polyphenols (PP) are important determinants of green tea quality. Levels of AA and PP are governed interactively by nitrogen (N) supply and carbon (C) status, so the impact of C/N allocation on green tea quality was investigated in saplings cultivated hydroponically with 0.3, 0.75, 1.5 or 4.5 mmol l−1 N. Activities of glutamine synthetase (GS), phenylalanine ammonia lyase (PAL), and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC) were determined, as were concentrations of AA, PP and soluble sugars. Concentrations of AA increased with increasing N supply, and the AA profile was shifted towards AA characterised by low C/N ratios (arginine, glutamine) and away from theanine, the unique non-protein AA that is abundant in Camellia sinensis. High N supply significantly reduced the concentrations of PP in young shoots, and was accompanied by lower levels of carbohydrates (soluble sugars). Analysis of the C and N status and selected enzyme activities, combined with path coefficient analysis of variables associated with C and N metabolism, demonstrated increasing deviation of C flux to AA under abundant N supply. Accumulation of AA and PP depended strongly on N status, and the balance shifted toward increasing synthesis of AA associated with enhanced growth, while investment of C in secondary metabolites did not change proportionally under the condition of ample N supply.