Cannabis sativa has long been an important source of fiber extracted from hemp and both medicinal and adult-use drugs based on cannabinoid compounds. Researchers have recently investigated its poorly known domestication history using whole-genome resequencing of 110 accessions from worldwide origins.

The study shows that C. sativa was first domesticated in early Neolithic times in East Asia and that all current hemp and drug cultivars diverged from an ancestral gene pool currently represented by feral plants and landraces in China. They identified candidate genes associated with traits differentiating hemp and drug cultivars, including branching patterns and cellulose/lignin biosynthesis. They also found evidence for the loss of function of genes involved in synthesizing the two major biochemically competing cannabinoids during selection for increased fiber production or psychoactive properties. "The results provide a unique global view of the domestication of C. sativa and offer valuable genomic resources for ongoing functional and molecular breeding research."

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