U of S researchers have discovered the chemical pathway that Cannabis sativa uses to create bioactive compounds called cannabinoids, paving the way for the development of marijuana varieties to produce pharmaceuticals or cannabinoid-free industrial hemp. The research appears online in the July 16 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
U of S adjunct professor of biology Jon Page explains that the pathway is an unusual one, involving a specialized version of one enzyme, called hexanoyl-CoA synthetase, and another enzyme, called olivetolic acid cyclase (OAC), that has never before been seen in plants.
“What cannabis has done is take a rare fatty acid with a simple, six-carbon chain and use it as a building block to make something chemically complex and pharmacologically active,” Page says.
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