The biological feasibility and social context of gene-edited, caffeine-free coffee

Nils V. Leibrock*, Joris Santegoets, Paul J.W. Mooijman, Filemon Yusuf, Xander C.L. Zuijdgeest, Esmée A. Zutt, Josette G.M. Jacobs, Jan G. Schaart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Coffee, especially the species Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora, is one of the world’s most consumed beverages. The consumer demand for caffeine-free coffee is currently being met through chemical decaffeination processes. However, this method leads to loss of beverage quality. In this review, the feasibility of using gene editing to produce caffeine-free coffee plants is reviewed. The genes XMT (7-methylxanthosine methyltransferase) and DXMT (3,7-dimethylxanthine methyltransferase) were identified as candidate target genes for knocking out caffeine production in coffee plants. The possible effect of the knock-out of the candidate genes was assessed. Using Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated introduction of the CRISPR-Cas system to Knock out XMT or DXMT would lead to blocking caffeine biosynthesis. The use of CRISPR-Cas to genetically edit consumer products is not yet widely accepted, which may lead to societal hurdles for introducing gene-edited caffeine-free coffee cultivars onto the market. However, increased acceptance of CRISPR-Cas/gene editing on products with a clear benefit for consumers offers better prospects for gene editing efforts for caffeine-free coffee.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-655
Number of pages21
JournalFood Science and Biotechnology
Issue number6
Early online dateJun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Caffeine pathway
  • Coffea arabica
  • Coffea canephora
  • CRISPR-Cas
  • DXMT
  • Genetic modification
  • MXMT
  • XMT


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