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.
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