Cannabis sativa L. is a diploid species, cultivated throughout the ages as a source of fiber, food, and secondary metabolites with therapeutic and recreational properties. Polyploidization is considered as a valuable tool in the genetic improvement of crop plants. Although this method has been used in hemp-type Cannabis, it has never been applied to drug-type strains. Here, we describe the development of tetraploid drug-type Cannabis lines and test whether this transformation alters yield or the profile of important secondary metabolites: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), or terpenes. The mitotic spindle inhibitor oryzalin was used to induce polyploids in a THC/CBD balanced drug-type strain of Cannabis sativa. Cultured axillary bud explants were exposed to a range of oryzalin concentrations for 24 h. Flow cytometry was used to assess the ploidy of regenerated shoots. Treatment with 20-40 μM oryzalin produced the highest number of tetraploids. Tetraploid clones were assessed for changes in morphology and chemical profile compared to diploid control plants. Tetraploid fan leaves were larger, with stomata about 30% larger and about half as dense compared to diploids. Trichome density was increased by about 40% on tetraploid sugar leaves, coupled with significant changes in the terpene profile and a 9% increase in CBD that was significant in buds. No significant increase in yield of dried bud or THC content was observed. This research lays important groundwork for the breeding and development of new Cannabis strains with diverse chemical profiles, of benefit to medical and recreational users.
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