Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are literally on everyone‘s lips. The structures of these two substances are closely related but differ in their effect. Over the past years, research in the field of artificial synthesis and derivatization of cannabinoids has been flourishing. However, the term synthetic cannabinoids all too often conceals psychoactive designer drugs that bind to cannabinoid receptors and induce an (il)legal high.
Plant extracts of cultivated strains of Cannabis Sativa can contain over 20% of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolcarboxylic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) in dried plant mass. The biosynthesis of THCA and CBDA relies on stereoselective enzymatic conversions of the achiral polyketide olivetolic acid and the terpene derivative geranyl pyrophosphate (GPP) as achiral starting materials. It is catalyzed by THCA and CBDA synthase, respectively (Figure 1).