Image by Lim et al, reproduced under Creative Commons license

While cannabis plants are best known for the psychotropic effects of THC, Cannabis sativa contains a wealth of secondary metabolites. Many of these compounds, known under the umbrella term “cannabinoids”, have potential applications as therapeutics. Synthetic biology methods are probably the best way to isolate these compounds, produce them in microorganisms, and make them available for extensive research and eventually as treatments without the stigma and legal complications associated with THC. 

In a recent work published in ACS Catalysis, a team of NUS and A*STAR scientists, lead by Associate Professor Wen Shan Yew, managed to solve one of the riddles that comprise the puzzle of microbial cannabinoid production. The researchers used structural biology insights, together with computational and synthetic biology techniques, and improved the activity and specificity of a key enzyme in the biosynthesis of the cannabinoid cannabigerolic acid. 

Read the full study here.