Anal Bioanal Chem. 2022 Apr 5. doi: 10.1007/s00216-022-04026-2. Online ahead of print.
Cannabis sativa (C. sativa) is commonly chemically classified based on its Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) content ratios. However, the plant contains nearly 150 additional cannabinoids, referred to as minor cannabinoids. Minor cannabinoids are gaining interest for improved plant and product characterization, e.g., for medical use, and bioanalytical questions in the medico-legal field. This study describes the development and validation of an analytical method for the elucidation of minor cannabinoid fingerprints, employing liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry. The method was used to characterize inflorescences from 18 different varieties of C. sativa, which were cultivated under the same standardized conditions. Complementing the targeted detection of 15 cannabinoids, untargeted metabolomics employing in silico assisted data analysis was used to detect additional plant ingredients with focus on cannabinoids. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to evaluate differences between varieties. The overall purpose of this study was to examine the ability of targeted and non-targeted metabolomics using the mentioned techniques to distinguish cannabis varieties from each other by their minor cannabinoid fingerprint. Quantitative determination of targeted cannabinoids already gave valuable information on cannabinoid fingerprints as well as inter- and intra-variety variability of cannabinoid contents. The untargeted workflow led to the detection of 19 additional compounds. PCA of the targeted and untargeted datasets revealed further subgroups extending commonly applied phenotype classification systems of cannabis. This study presents an analytical method for the comprehensive characterization of C. sativa varieties.