Front Plant Sci. 2021 Jul 1;12:699530. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.699530. eCollection 2021.
Previous chemotaxonomic studies of cannabis only focused on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) dominant strains while excluded the cannabidiol (CBD) dominant strains and intermediate strains (THC ≈ CBD). This study investigated the utility of the full spectrum of secondary metabolites in different plant parts in three cannabis chemotypes (THC dominant, intermediate, and CBD dominant) for chemotaxonomic discrimination. Hierarchical clustering, principal component analysis (PCA), and canonical correlation analysis assigned 21 cannabis varieties into three chemotypes using the content and ratio of cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, sterols, and triterpenoids across inflorescences, leaves, stem bark, and roots. The same clustering results were obtained using secondary metabolites, omitting THC and CBD. Significant chemical differences were identified in these three chemotypes. Cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids had differentiation power while sterols and triterpenoids had none. CBD dominant strains had higher amounts of total CBD, cannabidivarin (CBDV), cannabichromene (CBC), α-pinene, β-myrcene, (-)-guaiol, β-eudesmol, α-eudesmol, α-bisabolol, orientin, vitexin, and isovitexin, while THC dominant strains had higher total THC, total tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), total cannabigerol (CBG), camphene, limonene, ocimene, sabinene hydrate, terpinolene, linalool, fenchol, α-terpineol, β-caryophyllene, trans-β-farnesene, α-humulene, trans-nerolidol, quercetin, and kaempferol. Compound levels in intermediate strains were generally equal to or in between those in CBD dominant and THC dominant strains. Overall, with higher amounts of β-myrcene, (-)-guaiol, β-eudesmol, α-eudesmol, and α-bisabolol, intermediate strains more resemble CBD dominant strains than THC dominant strains. The results of this study provide a comprehensive profile of bioactive compounds in three chemotypes for medical purposes. The simultaneous presence of a predominant number of identified chemotype markers (with or without THC and CBD) could be used as chemical fingerprints for quality standardization or strain identification for research, clinical studies, and cannabis product manufacturing.