Nav: Home

Researchers identify genes that give cannabis its flavor

March 29, 2017

UBC scientists have scanned the genome of cannabis plants to find the genes responsible for giving various strains their lemony, skunky or earthy flavors, an important step for the budding legal cannabis industry.

"The goal is to develop well-defined and highly-reproducible cannabis varieties. This is similar to the wine industry, which depends on defined varieties such as chardonnay or merlot for high value products," said Jörg Bohlmann, a professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories and faculty of forestry at UBC. "Our genomics work can inform breeders of commercial varieties which genes to pay attention to for specific flavor qualities."

The research is part of an ongoing collaboration between Bohlmann, graduate student Judith Booth, and Jonathan Page, an adjunct professor in the botany department who founded the cannabis testing and biotechnology company Anandia Labs.

They found about 30 terpene synthase genes that contribute to diverse flavors in cannabis. This number is comparable to similar genes that play a role in grapevine flavor for the wine industry. The genes the researchers discovered play a role in producing natural products like limonene, myrcene, and pinene in the cannabis plants. These fragrant molecules are generally known in the industry as terpenes.

"The limonene compound produces a lemon-like flavor and myrcene produces the dank, earthy flavor characteristic of purple kush," said Booth.

They also found a gene that produces the signature terpene of cannabis, beta-caryophyllene, which interacts with cannabinoid receptors in human cells along with other active ingredients in cannabis.

Bohlmann says the economic potential of a regulated cannabis industry is huge, but a current challenge is that growers are working with a crop that is not well standardized and highly variable for its key natural product profiles.

"There is a need for high-quality and consistent products made from well defined varieties." he said.

The researchers say it will also be important to examine to what extent terpene compounds might interact with the cannabinoid compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that confer the medicinal properties of cannabis.

The study was published today in PLOS ONE: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0173911.
-end-


University of British Columbia

Related Cannabis Articles:

Vaping cannabis may expose users to carcinogenic compounds
New research shows that the agents commonly mixed with cannabis oil for vaping can also produce cancer-causing compounds when heated.
Recreational cannabis, used often, increases risk of gum disease
Recreational use of cannabis -- including marijuana, hashish, and hash oil -- increases the risk of gum disease, says a study by Columbia University dental researchers.
Cannabis reverses aging processes in the brain
Memory performance decreases with increasing age. Cannabis can reverse these ageing processes in the brain.
Did illicit cannabis use increase more in states with medical marijuana laws?
A study using data from three US national surveys indicates that illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders increased at a greater rate in states that passed medical marijuana laws than in other states, according to a new article published online by JAMA Psychiatry.
Risk of psychosis from cannabis use lower than originally thought, say scientists
Scientists at the University of York have shown that the risk of developing psychosis, such as hallucinations, from cannabis use is small compared to the number of total users.
More Cannabis News and Cannabis Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...