Drug Discov Ther. 2009;3(3):83-87.
Studies on tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase that produces the acidic precursor of tetrahydrocannabinol, the pharmacologically active cannabinoid in marijuana.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of marijuana, is now regarded as a promising medicine because this cannabinoid has been shown to exert a variety of therapeutic activities. It has been demonstrated that THC is generated from the acidic precursor, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) by nonenzymatic decarboxylation, and that THCA is biosynthesized by THCA synthase, which catalyzes a unique biosynthetic reaction, the stereospecific oxidative cyclization of the geranyl group of the substrate cannabigerolic acid. Molecular characterization of THCA synthase has revealed its structural characteristics and reaction mechanism. THCA synthase is the first cannabinoid synthase to be studied and is potentially attractive target for various biotechnological applications as it produces the direct precursor of THC. This review describes the research history of this enzyme, i.e., purification, molecular cloning, biochemical characterization, and possible biotechnological application of THCA synthase.