Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Genome Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research

The draft genome and transcriptome of Cannabis sativa

Harm van Bakel1, Jake M Stout23, Atina G Cote1, Carling M Tallon3, Andrew G Sharpe3, Timothy R Hughes14* and Jonathan E Page23*

Author affiliations

1 Banting and Best Department of Medical Research and Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, University of Toronto, 160 College St. Room 230, Toronto, ON, M5S 3E1, Canada

2 Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 5E2 Canada

3 National Research Council of Canada, Plant Biotechnology Institute, 110 Gymnasium Place, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 0W9, Canada

4 Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, #4396 Medical Sciences Building, 1 King's College Circle, Toronto, ON, M5S 1A8 Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

Genome Biology 2011, 12:R102  doi:10.1186/gb-2011-12-10-r102

Published: 20 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Cannabis sativa has been cultivated throughout human history as a source of fiber, oil and food, and for its medicinal and intoxicating properties. Selective breeding has produced cannabis plants for specific uses, including high-potency marijuana strains and hemp cultivars for fiber and seed production. The molecular biology underlying cannabinoid biosynthesis and other traits of interest is largely unexplored.

Results

We sequenced genomic DNA and RNA from the marijuana strain Purple Kush using shortread approaches. We report a draft haploid genome sequence of 534 Mb and a transcriptome of 30,000 genes. Comparison of the transcriptome of Purple Kush with that of the hemp cultivar 'Finola' revealed that many genes encoding proteins involved in cannabinoid and precursor pathways are more highly expressed in Purple Kush than in 'Finola'. The exclusive occurrence of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase in the Purple Kush transcriptome, and its replacement by cannabidiolic acid synthase in 'Finola', may explain why the psychoactive cannabinoid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is produced in marijuana but not in hemp. Resequencing the hemp cultivars 'Finola' and 'USO-31' showed little difference in gene copy numbers of cannabinoid pathway enzymes. However, single nucleotide variant analysis uncovered a relatively high level of variation among four cannabis types, and supported a separation of marijuana and hemp.

Conclusions

The availability of the Cannabis sativa genome enables the study of a multifunctional plant that occupies a unique role in human culture. Its availability will aid the development of therapeutic marijuana strains with tailored cannabinoid profiles and provide a basis for the breeding of hemp with improved agronomic characteristics.

Keywords:
Cannabaceae; cannabis; marijuana; hemp; genome; transcriptome; cannabinoid