The application of plant in vitro cultures in cannabinoid production

Biotechnol Lett. 2018 Mar;40(3):445-454. doi: 10.1007/s10529-017-2492-1. Epub 2017 Dec 16.


Cannabinoids have considerable interest in the pharmaceutical industry. However, the production of medicines from hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) in most countries is restricted by law. Large-scale, field cultivation of hemp is difficult to control. Cannabinoid content in plants is variable and depends on multiple factors. Therefore, alternative methods of production have been investigated. The development of micropropagation techniques is a necessary step for genetic modification. Promising results have been obtained for certain narcotic genotypes. However, micropropagation of fibre types requires further research. Hemp can be genetically modified which may contribute to the breeding of new varieties in the future. Cell suspension cultures and hairy root cultures of hemp have been used to produce cannabinoids but obtaining cannabinoids from callus and cell suspension cultures has proved impossible. Adventitious roots can, however, deliver small amounts of these metabolites but production ceases over time and is too low for industrial applications.

Keywords: Cannabinoids; Cannabis sativa L.; Genetic transformation; Hairy roots; In vitro cultures; Micropropagation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biotechnology
  • Cannabinoids* / analysis
  • Cannabinoids* / genetics
  • Cannabinoids* / metabolism
  • Cannabis* / genetics
  • Cannabis* / metabolism
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Plant Roots* / genetics
  • Plant Roots* / metabolism
  • Tissue Culture Techniques
  • Transformation, Genetic*


  • Cannabinoids