Investigating the cell biology of cannabinoid synthesis in Cannabis sativa

Cannabis sativa is a plant well-known for its production of cannabinoids, which are lipids with unique pharmacological properties. These compounds are produced mainly in female floral buds in specialized epidermal outgrowths known as glandular trichomes. These structures consist of a long stalk supporting a disk of biosynthetically active cells that produce the cannabinoids. Cannabinoid biosynthesis begins inside specialized non-photosynthetic plastids and the later steps of the pathway are catalyzed by cytoplasmic enzymes, however there exists a paucity of information on how the highly lipidic cannabinoids move among the various intracellular organelles. Such high lipid levels are predicted to produce lipotoxicity, but the disk cells must have mechanisms for sequestering the lipid products to avoid disruption of cellular membranes. Thus, my objective is to elucidate how cannabinoids are compartmentalized and trafficked within trichome disk cells, particularly focusing on lipid droplets (LDs) as potential sites of lipid buffering, and to identify novel proteins involved in this process. I expect the execution of my research objective to produce new insights into the cell biology of cannabinoid synthesis that should be directly beneficial for the partner organization BioCan Technologies Inc., a cannabis company seeking to increase cannabinoid content while avoiding lipotoxicity.

Faculty Supervisor:

Anne Samuels


Michal Pyc


BioCan Technologies Inc


Visual arts


Life sciences




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