How is THC produced in marijuana plants?


A recent post by ScienceDaily commented on a research publication to the PNAS journal. Researchers have isolated the key enzyme involved in cannabis production of cannabinoids and THC. Cannabinoids are merely a complex fatty acid and can be synthesized from linking shorter chain fatty acids in unique ways. Similarly, in our own body syntesizes its own cannabinoid products as a form of pain relief. For example, we can feel the effects after running for a long time.
kolkata-kut, The hexanoyl CoA synthetase enzyme
However, it seems the cannabis plant possess a gene for the hexanoyl CoA synthetase enzyme. This enzyme is required for the unique build up of short fatty acids into the well known THC. This is a key enzyme  that allows the budding cells of the marijuana plant to build delta-9-tetrahydrocannbinol (THC). Another enzyme is key to to production of THC, an olivetolic acid cyclase (OAC).
The research that led to this discovery can drastically change how the world views cannabis plants. It is known the pharmaceutical industry has been able to chemically form THC, but  the resulting product never could match the biologically generated form. Because the gene has been isolated we can now express the genes for these enzymes in single cell organisms such as yeast or E. coli. Using single cell organisms has the potential mass produce biologically generated cannabinoids to be used for medicinally for pain relief. Isolated cannabinoids could then be ingested as a pill or injection rather than harmfully inhaling burning smoke. Patients seeking pain relief would have access to powerful pain reliever without the problem of withdrawal and physical addiction. There are additional improvements this isolated enzyme can help society. Hemp is known as one of the strongest industrial fibers, but is rejected because the minor THC content within it. We now could potentially remove this gene from marijuana plants. These plants would still be fibrous and could produce hemp, but with zero THC and cannabinoid content.


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