l-Theanine prevents ETEC-induced liver damage by reducing intrinsic apoptotic response and inhibiting ERK1/2 and JNK1/2 signaling pathways
l-Theanine (LTA; γ-glutamylethylamide), a peculiar non-protein-derived amino acid isolated from tea, is widely used as a functional ingredient and dietary supplement. l-Theanine has been confirmed to have hepatoprotective effects, but the underlying mechanism remains unknown. This study investigated the protective effect of l-Theanine-in vivo, using an enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC)-infected mouse model. l-Theanine significantly decreased the elevated serum activities of both aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT), two biomarkers of hepatic impairment. This was consistent with histopathological images from the microscopic observation of liver tissue. In addition, l-theanine significantly increased the mRNA and protein expression of Bcl-2 and decreased the expression of Bax, anti- and pro-apoptotic molecules, respectively, compared with levels in the ETEC control group. The expression of cleaved caspase-3 protein in the group pre-treated with l-theanine was significantly lower than that in the ETEC group. Additionally, decreases in extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase(JNK1/2) MAPK phosphorylation were observed in the l-theanine pre-treated group. Our study demonstrates that l-theanine possesses anti-apoptotic activity, which can be attributed to suppression of the intrinsic mitochondria-mediated apoptosis and MAPK phosphorylation signaling pathways.