A new genetic analysis indicates that cannabis may have originated in northwest China, Gizmodo reports.
An international team of researchers examined the genomes of 110 Cannabis sativa accessions from around the world. As they report in Science Advances, their analysis of 82 newly sequenced plants and 28 previously sequenced ones uncovered more than 12 million SNPs, which they used to determine the genetic relationships between the accessions. The plants broadly separated into four groups: basal cannabis, which is a sister group to all other accessions and mostly found in China; hemp-type; feral drug-type; and cultivated drug-type groups.
The researchers further traced the divergence between the hemp- and drug-type groups to about 12,000 years ago and suggest that the plant was first domesticated during the early Neolithic in what is now China.
They additionally found that the different cannabis groups lost genes involved in the synthesis of CBD or THC depending on whether they were cultivated for hemp or drug production.
"Our results provide a unique global view of the domestication of C. sativa and offer valuable genomic resources for ongoing functional and molecular breeding research," the researchers write in their paper.