Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA-A) reduces adiposity and prevents metabolic disease caused by diet-induced obesity.

Biochemical Pharmacology“Medicinal cannabis has remarkable therapeutic potential, but its clinical use is limited by the psychotropic activity of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC). However, the biological profile of the carboxylated, non-narcotic native precursor of Δ9-THC, the Δ9-THC acid A (Δ9-THCA-A), remains largely unexplored.

Here we present evidence that Δ9-THCA-A is a partial and selective PPARγ modulator, endowed with lower adipogenic activity than the full PPARγ agonist rosiglitazone (RGZ) and enhanced osteoblastogenic effects in hMSC. Docking and in vitro functional assays indicated that Δ9-THCA-A binds to and activates PPARγ by acting at both the canonical and the alternative sites of the ligand-binding domain. Transcriptomic signatures in iWAT from mice treated with Δ9-THCA-A confirmed its mode of action through PPARγ.

Administration of Δ9-THCA-A in a mouse model of HFD-induced obesity significantly reduced fat mass and body weight gain, markedly ameliorating glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, and largely preventing liver steatosis, adipogenesis and macrophage infiltration in fat tissues. Additionally, immunohistochemistry, transcriptomic, and plasma biomarker analyses showed that treatment with Δ9-THCA-A caused browning of iWAT and displayed potent anti-inflammatory actions in HFD mice.

Our data validate the potential of Δ9-THCA-A as a low adipogenic PPARγ agonist, capable of substantially improving the symptoms of obesity-associated metabolic syndrome and inflammation.”


“Δ9-THCA-A is a partial PPARγ ligand agonist with low adipogenic activity. Δ9-THCA-A enhances osteoblastogenesis in bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells. Δ9-THCA-A reduces body weight gain, fat mass, and liver steatosis in HFD-fed mice. Δ9-THCA-A improves glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and insulin profiles in vivo. Δ9-THCA-A induces browning of iWAT and has a potent anti-inflammatory activity.”


Can You Pass the Acid Test? Critical Review and Novel Therapeutic Perspectives of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid A.

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publishers

“Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA-A) is the acidic precursor of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound found in Cannabis sativa. THCA-A is biosynthesized and accumulated in glandular trichomes present on flowers and leaves, where it serves protective functions and can represent up to 90% of the total THC contained in the plant. THCA-A slowly decarboxylates to form THC during storage and fermentation and can further degrade to cannabinol. Decarboxylation also occurs rapidly during baking of edibles, smoking, or vaporizing, the most common ways in which the general population consumes Cannabis. Contrary to THC, THCA-A does not elicit psychoactive effects in humans and, perhaps for this reason, its pharmacological value is often neglected. In fact, many studies use the term “THCA” to refer indistinctly to several acid derivatives of THC. Despite this perception, many in vitro studies seem to indicate that THCA-A interacts with a number of molecular targets and displays a robust pharmacological profile that includes potential anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, neuroprotective, and antineoplastic properties. Moreover, the few in vivo studies performed with THCA-A indicate that this compound exerts pharmacological actions in rodents, likely by engaging type-1 cannabinoid (CB1) receptors. Although these findings may seem counterintuitive due to the lack of cannabinoid-related psychoactivity, a careful perusal of the available literature yields a plausible explanation to this conundrum and points toward novel therapeutic perspectives for raw, unheated Cannabis preparations in humans.”



Affinity and Efficacy Studies of Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid A at Cannabinoid Receptor Types One and Two.

“Introduction: Cannabis biosynthesizes Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA-A), which decarboxylates into Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). There is growing interest in the therapeutic use of THCA-A, but its clinical application may be hampered by instability. THCA-A lacks cannabimimetic effects; we hypothesize that it has little binding affinity at cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1).

Results: The THCA-A reagent contained 2% THC. THCA-A displayed small but measurable binding at both hCB1 and hCB2, equating to approximate Ki values of 3.1μM and 12.5μM, respectively. THC showed 62-fold greater affinity at hCB1 and 125-fold greater affinity at hCB2. In efficacy tests, THCA-A (10μM) slightly inhibited forskolin-stimulated cAMP at hCB1, suggestive of weak agonist activity, and no measurable efficacy at hCB2.

Discussion: The presence of THC in our THCA-A certified standard agrees with decarboxylation kinetics (literature reviewed herein), which indicate contamination with THC is nearly unavoidable. THCA-A binding at 10μM approximated THC binding at 200nM. We therefore suspect some of our THCA-A binding curve was artifact-from its inevitable decarboxylation into THC-and the binding affinity of THCA-A is even weaker than our estimated values. We conclude that THCA-A has little affinity or efficacy at CB1 or CB2.

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is a potent PPARγ agonist with neuroprotective activity.

British Journal of Pharmacology

“Phytocannabinoids are produced in Cannabis sativa L. in acidic form and are decarboxylated upon heating, processing, and storage. While the biological effects of decarboxylated cannabinoids such as Δ9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9 -THC) have been extensively investigated, the bioactivity of Δ9 -THCA is largely unknown, despite its occurrence in different Cannabis preparations. The aim of this study was to determine whether Δ9 -THCA modulates the PPARγ pathway and has neuroprotective activity.

The effects of six phytocannabinoids on PPARγ binding and transcriptional activity were investigated. The effect of Δ9 -THCA on mitochondrial biogenesis and PGC-1α expression was investigated in N2a cells. The neuroprotective effect was analysed in STHdhQ111/Q111 cells expressing a mutated form of the huntingtin protein, and in N2a cells infected with an adenovirus carrying human huntingtin containing 94 polyQ repeats (mHtt-q94). In vivo neuroprotective activity of Δ9 -THCA was investigated in mice intoxicated with the mitochondrial toxin 3-nitropropionic acid (3-NP).


Cannabinoid acids bind and activate PPARγ with higher potency than their decarboxylated products. Δ9 -THCA increases mitochondrial mass in neuroblastoma N2a cells, and prevents cytotoxicity induced by serum deprivation in STHdhQ111/Q111cells and by mutHtt-q94 in N2a cells. Δ9 -THCA, through a PPARγ-dependent pathway, was neuroprotectant in mice intoxicated with 3-NP, improving motor deficits and preventing striatal degeneration. In addition, Δ9 -THCA attenuated microgliosis, astrogliosis and the upregulation of proinflammatory markers induced by 3-NP.


Δ9 -THCA shows potent neuroprotective activity, worth consideration for the treatment of Huntington´s Disease and possibly other neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases.”



Engineering yeasts as platform organisms for cannabinoid biosynthesis.

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“Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is a plant derived secondary natural product from the plant Cannabis sativa l. The discovery of the human endocannabinoid system in the late 1980s resulted in a growing number of known physiological functions of both synthetic and plant derived cannabinoids. Thus, manifold therapeutic indications of cannabinoids currently comprise a significant area of research. Here we reconstituted the final biosynthetic cannabinoid pathway in yeasts. The use of the soluble prenyltransferase NphB from Streptomyces sp. strain CL190 enables the replacement of the native transmembrane prenyltransferase cannabigerolic acid synthase from C. sativa. In addition to the desired product cannabigerolic acid, NphB catalyzes an O-prenylation leading to 2-O-geranyl olivetolic acid. We show for the first time that the bacterial prenyltransferase and the final enzyme of the cannabinoid pathway tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase can both be actively expressed in the yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Komagataella phaffii simultaneously. While enzyme activities in S. cerevisiae were insufficient to produce THCA from olivetolic acid and geranyl diphosphate, genomic multi-copy integrations of the enzyme’s coding sequences in K. phaffii resulted in successful synthesis of THCA from olivetolic acid and geranyl diphosphate. This study is an important step toward total biosynthesis of valuable cannabinoids and derivatives and demonstrates the potential for developing a sustainable and secure yeast bio-manufacturing platform.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28694184  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168165617315201

“Production of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid from cannabigerolic acid by whole cells of Pichia (Komagataella) pastoris expressing Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase from Cannabis sativa L.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25994576

“Scientists Engineer Yeast to Produce Active Marijuana Compound, THC”  https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-engineer-yeast-to-produce-active-marijuana-compound-thc

Production of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid from cannabigerolic acid by whole cells of Pichia (Komagataella) pastoris expressing Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase from Cannabis sativa L.

“The Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase (THCAS) from Cannabis sativa was expressed intracellularly in different organisms to investigate the potential of a biotechnological production of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) using whole cells…


Whole cells of P. pastoris offer the capability of synthesizing pharmaceutical THCA production.”