Cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) is typically propagated using stem cuttings taken from mother plants to produce genetically uniform propagules. However, producers anecdotally report that clonal lines deteriorate over time and eventually produce clones with less vigor and lower cannabinoid levels than the original mother plant. While the cause of this deterioration has not been investigated, one potential contributor is the accumulation of somatic mutations within the plant. To test this, we used deep sequencing of whole genomes (>50×) to compare the variability within an individual cannabis cultivar Honey Banana plant sampled at the bottom, middle, and top. We called over six million sequence variants based on a reference genome and found that the top had the most by a sizable amount. Comparing the variants among the samples uncovered that nearly 600,000 (34%) were unique to the top while the bottom only contained 148,000 (12%), and middle with 77,000 (9%) unique variants. Bioinformatics tools were used to identify mutations in critical cannabinoid-terpene biosynthesis pathways. While none were identified as high impact, four genes contained more than double the average level of nucleotide diversity (π) in or near the gene. Two genes code for essential enzymes required for the cannabinoid pathway while the other two are in the terpene pathways, demonstrating that mutations were accumulating within these pathways and could influence their function. Overall, a measurable number of intraplant genetic diversity was discovered that could impact long-term genetic fidelity of clonal lines and potentially contribute to the observed decline in vigor and cannabinoid content.
© 2021 The Authors. The Plant Genome published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Crop Science Society of America.
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