Using firefly genes to understand the biology of cannabis

Light It Up: Using Firefly Genes to Understand Cannabis Biology

Yi Ma near the cannabis plants at the CAHNR Greenhouse. Credit: Jason Sheldon/Yukon Image

Hemp, a plant that is gaining increasing attention for its wide-ranging medicinal properties, contains dozens of compounds known as cannabinoids.

One of the most popular cannabinoids is CBD, which is used to treat pain, inflammation, nausea, and more.

Cannabis is produced by trichomes, tiny thorny bumps on the surface of cannabis flowers. Beyond this fact, scientists know very little about how to control cannabis biosynthesis.

Yi Ma, research assistant professor, and Jerry Berkowitz, professor in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying trichromat development and cannabis synthesis.

Berkowitz and Ma, along with former graduate students Samuel Hayden and Peter Abichella, discovered the transcription factors responsible for initiating trichomoniasis and the biosynthesis of cannabis. Transcription factors are molecules that determine whether a portion of an organism’s DNA is transcribed into RNA, and thus expressed.

In this case, transcription factors cause epidermal cells On the flowers to turn tricolor. The team’s discovery was recently published as a feature article in the plants. Related trichome research has also been published in direct factory. Due to the gene’s potential economic impact, UConn has filed a provisional patent application on the technology.

Building on their findings, the researchers will continue to explore how these transcription factors play a role in trichome development during flower maturation.

Berkowitz and Ma will clone the promoters (the part of DNA to which transcription factors bind) of interest. They then place the stimuli into the cells of a model plant along with a copy of the gene that makes fireflies light up, known as firefly luciferase. Luciferase fuses with the cannabinoid promoter, so if the promoter is activated by a signal, the luciferase reporter will generate light. “It’s a great way to assess the signals that coordinate cannabinoid synthesis and trichromacy development,” Berkowitz says.

The researchers will load the luciferase cloned promoters into a plasmid. Plasmids are circular DNA molecules that can replicate independently of chromosomes. This allows scientists to express genes of interest to them even though they are not part of the plant’s genomic DNA. They will deliver these plasmids to plant leaves or protoplasts, which are plant cells without a cell wall.

When the stimulus controlling luciferase expression comes into contact with transcription factors responsible for trichome development (or generated by other signals such as plant hormones), the luciferase ‘reporter’ will produce light. Ma and Berkowitz will use an instrument called a luminometer, which measures the amount of light that comes from the sample. This will tell the researchers whether the areas of the meadows they are looking for are being controlled by transcription factors Responsible for further development of trichome or modification of genes that code for cannabis biosynthesis enzymes. They can also tell if the promoters are responding to hormonal signals.

In previous work underlying the rationale for this experimental approach, Ma and Berkowitz along with graduate student Peter Apicella found that the enzyme that synthesizes THC in cannabis trichomes may not be a critical restriction step regulating THC production, but rather that the generation of precursors to THC may be the production of (and CBD) and shuttle transfers that are easily transported from the precursor to the extracellular bulb are major determinants in the development of cannabis strains that are high in THC or CBD.

Most cannabis growers grow hemp, which is a variety of cannabis that contains naturally lower levels of THC than marijuana. Currently, most cannabis varieties that contain high levels of CBD contain unacceptably high levels of THC. This is likely because hemp plants still make the enzyme that produces THC. If a plant contains more than 0.3% THC, it is considered federally illegal and, in many cases, must be destroyed. A better understanding of how plants produce THC means that scientists can selectively eliminate the enzyme that makes THC using genome-editing techniques such as CRISPR. This would produce plants with lower or no THC levels.

“We envision that the basic knowledge obtained can be translated into new genetic tools and strategies to improve the cannabis profile, assist cannabis growers with the common problem of overproduction of THC, and benefit from human healthResearchers say.

On the other hand, this knowledge can lead to the production of cannabis plants that produce more than required cannabismaking it more valuable and profitable.


The colder the flower, the stronger the weed


more information:
Samuel R. Haiden et al, Overexpression of CsMIXTA, a transcription factor from Cannabis sativa, increases the density of glandular Trichome in tobacco leaves, the plants (2022). DOI: 10.3390 / plants11111519

Peter V. Apicella et al, Determination of the genetic regulation of cannabis biosynthesis during female flower development in Cannabis sativa, direct factory (2022). DOI: 10.1002 / pld3.412.002

the quote: Light It Up: Using Firefly Genes to Understand Cannabis Biology (2022, June 21) Retrieved on June 21, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-firefly-genes-cannabis-biology.html

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