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Terpenes: Understanding the Genetics Behind Taste and Smell

C.E. Credits: P.A.C.E. CE Florida CE
Speaker
  • Research Scientist II, Front Range Biosciences
    Biography

      Christopher Pauli is a molecular, cellular, and developmental biologist, who’s specialized in genomics, genetics, and transcriptomics of Cannabis and other non-model organisms. He has published eight peer-reviewed articles and has developed intellectual property that provides genetic tests and breeding applications of various cannabinoid synthase gene paralogs. His more recent focuses have been on understanding the underlying genetics of hermaphroditism and secondary metabolite production in Cannabis, specifically predicting the accumulation of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.  Christopher has worked in the Cannabis Research Industry for over 5 years and has grown and bred Cannabis since 2012. He’s worked with renowned researchers including Nolan Kane’s Laboratory, Cannabis Genomic Research Initiative, Agricultural Genomics Foundation, The Institute of Cannabis Research, Steep Hill’s Research and Development Team, and most recently with Front Range Biosciences’ Research and Development Team. At Front Range Biosciences, Christopher and his colleagues have published over 55 identified terpene synthase genes, which provides the basis of understanding needed to predict a given terpene profile. Additionally, Christopher works with both the bioinformatics and breeding teams at Front Range Biosciences to apply our scientific discoveries into breeding applications that let us develop new genetic combinations with our marker assisted breeding.


    Abstract

    Terpenes are a broad class of chemicals that are found throughout the Cannabis plant that produce the unique aroma and taste of your favorite variety. Cannabis breeders have been selecting for suites of terpene synthase genes for centuries without necessarily understanding the underlying genetics, until more recently in our history. In this talk, I will present an overview of the terpene synthase gene family, a general understanding of how the known terpene synthase enzymes work, and how these combinations of genes can help us predict the smell, taste, and effect of a given Cannabis variety. With over 55 genes identified in the literature (Allen et. Al., 2019), competing for common precursor molecules, such as GPP, FPP, and GGPP, which then can be enzymatically converted into multiple terpene products, in different tissues. We can now see the complex dynamic of multiple enzymes producing multiple product profiles that all contribute to the diverse smell, taste, and effects that Cannabis is known for. At Front Range Biosciences, our chemistry, breeding, molecular biology, and genetics teams work closely with one another to discover these genes in the genome, identify the function through in-vitro assays, and then validate the activity and inheritance of these genes while breeding and characterizing our diverse germplasm. By the end of the talk, I hope to convey the complexity of this gene family as well as the potential of what is possible through our work in Cannabis genetics.

    Learning Objectives:

    1. Understand what a terpene is and how they are created by plants

    2. Understand the diversity and promiscuity of the terpene synthase gene family


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