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THC and CBD Fingerprinting of an Elite Cannabis Collection from Iran: Quantifying Diversity to Underpin Future Cannabis Breeding


Cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) has a rich history of human use, and the therapeutic importance of compounds produced by this species is recognized by the medical community. The active constituents of cannabis, collectively called cannabinoids, encompass hundreds of distinct molecules, the most well-characterized of which are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which have been used for centuries as recreational drugs and medicinal agents. As a first step to establish a cannabis breeding program, we initiated this study to describe the HPLC-measured quantity of THC and CBD biochemistry profiles of 161 feral pistillate cannabis plants from 20 geographical regions of Iran. Our data showed that Iran can be considered a new region of high potential for distribution of cannabis landraces with diverse THC and CBD content, predominantly falling into three groups, as Type I = THC-predominant, Type II = approximately equal proportions of THC and CBD (both CBD and THC in a ratio close to the unity), and Type III = CBD-predominant. Correlation analysis among two target cannabinoids and environmental and geographical variables indicated that both THC and CBD contents were strongly influenced by several environmental-geographical factors, such that THC and CBD contents were positively correlated with mean, min and max annual temperature and negatively correlated with latitude, elevation, and humidity. Additionally, a negative correlation was observed between THC and CBD concentrations, suggesting that further studies to unravel these genotype × environment interactions (G × E interactions) are warranted. The results of this study provide important pre-breeding information on a collection of cannabis that will underpin future breeding programs.

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