How hemp got high: Canadian scientists map the cannabis genome

Oct 19, 2011

A team of Canadian researchers has sequenced the genome of Cannabis sativa, the plant that produces both industrial hemp and marijuana, and in the process revealed the genetic changes that led to the plant's drug-producing properties.

Jon Page is a plant biochemist and adjunct professor of biology at the University of Saskatchewan. He explains that a simple is likely responsible for the production of THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, the precursor of the active ingredient in marijuana.

"The transcriptome analysis showed that the THCA synthase gene, an essential enzyme in THCA production, is turned on in marijuana, but switched off in hemp," Page says.

Tim Hughes, co-leader of the project, is a professor at the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and the Department of at the University of Toronto. He explains the team compared the

potent Purple Kush marijuana variety with 'Finola' hemp, which is grown for seed production. Hemp lacks THCA, but does contain another, non-psychoactive substance called CBDA, or cannabidiolic acid.

"Detailed analysis of the two genomes suggests that domestication, cultivation, and breeding of marijuana strains has caused the loss of the enzyme (CBDA synthase), which

would otherwise compete for the metabolites used as starting material in THCA production," Hughes says.

Essentially, this means that over thousands of years of cultivation, hemp farmers selectively bred Cannabis sativa into two distinct strains – one for fibre and seed, and one for

medicine. has been used medicinally for more than 2,700 years, and continues to be explored for its pharmaceutical potential.

"Plants continue to be a major source of medicines, both as herbal drugs and as pharmaceutical compounds," Page says. "Although more than 20 plant genomes have been

published, ranging from major food crops such as rice and corn, to laboratory models like Arabidopsis, this is the first of a medicinal plant."

The researchers expect that sequencing the sativa genome will help answer basic questions about the biology of the plant as well as furthering development of its myriad applications. These include strains for pharmaceutical production, high-

producing industrial hemp plants, and hemp seed varieties to produce high-quality edible oil. seed oil is rich in omega 6, an essential fatty acid, and its fibre is used in the production of textiles.

Explore further: Team advances genome editing technique

More information: The article describing the research findings, "The draft genome and transcriptome of Cannabis sativa,'" will be published October 20, 2011 in the BioMed Central open access journal Genome Biology available at genomebiology.com .

Provided by University of Saskatchewan

5 /5 (12 votes)

Related Stories

Swedish hemp farmer wins green prize

Nov 30, 2007

A Swedish hemp farmer was given an environmental prize in his local community for his efforts to fight a ban on the growing of industrial hemp.

Opium and marijuana research go underground

Oct 31, 2007

The world’s leading expert on the opium poppy has joined forces with researchers working on another infamous drug-producing plant – cannabis – in hopes of finding new uses for the much-maligned sources of heroin and ...

Hemp could be key to zero-carbon houses

Apr 09, 2009

Hemp, a plant from the cannabis family, could be used to build carbon-neutral homes of the future to help combat climate change and boost the rural economy, say researchers at the University of Bath.

Can hemp help the everglades?

Aug 06, 2007

Within Southern Florida, soil and water conditions indicate potential for leaching from the use of atrazine-based herbicides in corn crops. Scientists from USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and University ...

Recommended for you

Team advances genome editing technique

8 hours ago

Customized genome editing – the ability to edit desired DNA sequences to add, delete, activate or suppress specific genes – has major potential for application in medicine, biotechnology, food and agriculture.

Studies steadily advance cellulosic ethanol prospects

Oct 20, 2014

At the Agricultural Research Service's Bioenergy Research Unit in Peoria, Illinois, field work and bench investigations keep ARS scientists on the scientific front lines of converting biomass into cellulosic ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JRDarby
5 / 5 (1) Oct 18, 2011
Fascinating. It never ceases to amaze me that our forebears (in all places in the world) were so adept and persevering at "genetic engineering." Corn, wheat, and apparently now cannabis too.

tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, the precursor of the active ingredient in marijuana.


I would note that there are around *sixty* active ingredients in Cannbis, not the one mentioned in the article (D-9-THC). Cannabidiol is one of these other important active ingredients: it regulates THC metabolism in the brain and is itself a chemical found in some cannabis-derivative pharmaceuticals, e.g. Sativex.
Isaacsname
3.5 / 5 (4) Oct 18, 2011
" Essentially, this means that over thousands of years of cultivation, hemp farmers selectively bred Cannabis sativa into two distinct strains one for fibre and seed, and one for medicine. Marijuana has been used medicinally for more than 2,700 years, and continues to be explored for its pharmaceutical potential.

"Plants continue to be a major source of medicines, both as herbal drugs and as pharmaceutical compounds," Page says. "Although more than 20 plant genomes have been published, ranging from major food crops such as rice and corn, to laboratory models like Arabidopsis, this is the first genome of a medicinal plant."

And what a fine, fine choice for the first one. Thank you U of S for helping move things in a positive direction.

I'll now hand the microphone to some random nut to rant about GMO's.
kaasinees
5 / 5 (4) Oct 18, 2011
I'll now hand the microphone to some random nut to rant about GMO's.

domestication =/= GMO
irjsiq
3 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2011
lgliz.com/Legalize 'Grass and Leaves'! If Not NOW,
then Legalize both 'Leaves and Grass' Yesterday'!
Legalization would mean the cartalls de Mexique, would have 'fewer' Balas!
And Thee/WE/Me could Have more 'Sonrisas'!
A Sound 'trade' Indeed!
HOWEVER . . . Knowing Our Government, both the 'Coca Leaves' and the 'Cannabis', would soon be 'Taxed' back into the 'Stratosphere', perhaps to surpassing the Cartall's (Black Market) price structure!

Roy J Stewart,
Phoenix AZ USA
P.S.
"I Like to Get High!"
"Perhaps 'I' am Not Alone!
"Though Myhi is 'Graciously'
"delivered 'By Spirits',
"and Not 'Stones!"