Jon Page is a plant biochemist and adjunct professor of biology at the University of Saskatchewan. He explains that a simple genetic switch 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 Molecular Genetics 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. 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."
The researchers expect that sequencing the Cannabis 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. Hemp seed oil is rich in omega 6, an essential fatty acid, and its fibre is used in the production of textiles.
According to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, about 25,000 acres of the crop were sown in Canada in 2010, much of this in Manitoba. Due to hemp's association with marijuana, farmers need to be licensed through Health Canada to grow the crop. Canadian medicinal marijuana is currently produced under Health Canada contract with Prairie Plant Systems, a biotechnology company based in Saskatoon.
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 http://genomebiology.com.
Synthetic nanoparticles achieve the complexity of protein molecules
24.01.2017 | Carnegie Mellon University
Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
24.01.2017 | Universität Basel
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
24.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
24.01.2017 | Life Sciences
24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy