Marijuana to Moss: Discovery of Plant Endocannabinoids

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The elucidation of the binding of marijuana’s psychoactive compound, (-)-D9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), to specific membrane receptors, in the early 1990s, led to the identification of endogenous arachidonate-based lipids that activate cannabinoid receptors in mammals. While the metabolic and signaling pathway for these 20 carbon N-acylethanolamines (NAE) and their derivatives has been well characterized in mammals, thus far, only 12-18 carbon NAEs have been identified in plants and their metabolic pathway has been partly characterized. In plants, NAEs have been shown to modulate a number of physiological processes, including seed and seedling development and ability to respond to stress; however, the mechanisms by which they function remain to be elucidated. Our recent identification of a 20C NAE (arachidonylethanolamide) in moss provided us with an exciting possibility to identify receptor-mediated endocannabinoid signaling responses in plants that is akin to mammals. In this seminar, I will provide insights into the past, present and future aspects of plant endocannabinoid research.


Athens, OH

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