Terpene synthases from Cannabis sativa

PLoS One. 2017 Mar 29;12(3):e0173911. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173911. eCollection 2017.


Cannabis (Cannabis sativa) plants produce and accumulate a terpene-rich resin in glandular trichomes, which are abundant on the surface of the female inflorescence. Bouquets of different monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes are important components of cannabis resin as they define some of the unique organoleptic properties and may also influence medicinal qualities of different cannabis strains and varieties. Transcriptome analysis of trichomes of the cannabis hemp variety 'Finola' revealed sequences of all stages of terpene biosynthesis. Nine cannabis terpene synthases (CsTPS) were identified in subfamilies TPS-a and TPS-b. Functional characterization identified mono- and sesqui-TPS, whose products collectively comprise most of the terpenes of 'Finola' resin, including major compounds such as β-myrcene, (E)-β-ocimene, (-)-limonene, (+)-α-pinene, β-caryophyllene, and α-humulene. Transcripts associated with terpene biosynthesis are highly expressed in trichomes compared to non-resin producing tissues. Knowledge of the CsTPS gene family may offer opportunities for selection and improvement of terpene profiles of interest in different cannabis strains and varieties.

MeSH terms

  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Alkenes / metabolism
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / genetics*
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / metabolism
  • Bicyclic Monoterpenes
  • Cannabis / classification
  • Cannabis / enzymology
  • Cannabis / genetics*
  • Cyclohexenes / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Inflorescence / enzymology
  • Inflorescence / genetics*
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Limonene
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / genetics
  • Monocyclic Sesquiterpenes
  • Monoterpenes / metabolism
  • Multigene Family
  • Phylogeny
  • Polycyclic Sesquiterpenes
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Sesquiterpenes / metabolism
  • Terpenes / metabolism


  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Alkenes
  • Bicyclic Monoterpenes
  • Cyclohexenes
  • Isoenzymes
  • Monocyclic Sesquiterpenes
  • Monoterpenes
  • Polycyclic Sesquiterpenes
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Terpenes
  • beta-myrcene
  • beta-ocimene
  • humulene
  • Limonene
  • caryophyllene
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases
  • terpene synthase
  • alpha-pinene

Grant support

This work was supported with funds to JB from a Discovery Grant of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada and an NSERC Graduate Scholarship to JKB. JEP contributed to the study in his academic capacity as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Botany at the University of British Columbia. JEP is also the CEO and President of Anandia Labs Inc., which is hereby acknowledged. The funder (NSERC) provided financial support in the form of salary through a fellowship for JKB and research materials. Anandia Labs provided in-kind support in the form of plant materials. Anandia Labs did not provide financial support for this project. The funder (NSERC) and Anandia Labs did not play a role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of all authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.