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Oncopreventive effects of theanine and theobromine on dimethylhydrazine-induced colon cancer model

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Theanine and theobromine are abundantly present in tea and cocoa, respectively. This study was performed to assess the chemopreventive effects of these phytochemicals, alone or together, on dimethylhydrazine (DMH)-induced colon cancer. Thirty male Wistar rats were divided into five groups and subcutaneously injected with saline (negative control group) or 30 mg/kg DMH (the other groups) two times/week for 12 weeks. The negative and positive control animals were orally treated with drinking water, and the other groups were gavaged with theanine (400 mg/kg), theobromine (100 mg/kg), or their mixture for two weeks before and throughout the injection period. At the end of the study, the morphological and histopathological features, Ki-67 proliferation marker, and the expression of Akt/mTOR, JAK2/STAT3, MAPK/ERK, and TGF-β/Smad pathways were investigated. Theanine and theobromine, alone or together, reduced the number of cancerous and precancerous lesions, the volume of tumors, the Ki-67 immunostaining, and the expression of Akt/mTOR and JAK2/STAT3 oncogenic pathways. The simultaneous treatment was more effective in the down-regulation of Akt and mTOR compared to either theanine or theobromine alone. Theobromine administration also caused more inhibitory effects on the Ki-67 and Akt/mTOR expression than theanine. Besides, all dietary interventions increased the mRNA and protein expression of Smad2. In conclusion, theanine and theobromine, alone and in combination, inhibited tumorigenesis through down-regulation of the Akt/mTOR and JAK2/STAT3 pathways and an increment of the Smad2 tumor suppressor. The inhibition of the Akt/mTOR pathway was more pronounced by simultaneous treatment.