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Indian hemp, Cannabis sativa (Cannabaceae) is an annual herb indigenous to Central and Western Asia, cultivated widely in India and many tropical and temperate regions for its fibre (hemp) and seed (for seed oil). The plant is also grown for its narcotic and mild intoxicant properties, and in most countries of the world its possession and consumption is illegal. Over many years, cannabis plants have been selected for either fibre production or drug use, the former resulting in tall plants with little pharmacological activity, whilst the latter tend to be short, bushy plants. Individual plants are almost always male or female, though the sex is not distinguishable until maturity and flowering. Seeds will produce plants of both sexes in roughly equal proportions. The active principles are secreted as a resin by glandular hairs, which are more numerous in the upper parts of female plants, and resin is produced from the time flowers first appear until the seeds reach maturity. However, all parts of the plant, both male and female, contain cannabinoids. In a typical plant, the concentration of cannabinoids increases in the following order: large leaves, small leaves, flowers, and bracts (which surround the ovaries), with stems containing very little. Material for drug use (ganja) is obtained by collecting the flowering tops (with little leaf) from female plants, though lower quality material (bhang) consisting of leaf from both female and male plants may be employed. By rubbing the flowering tops, the resin secreted by the glandular hairs can be released and subsequently scraped off to provide cannabis resin (charas) as an amorphous brown solid or semi-solid. A potent form of cannabis, called cannabis oil, is produced by alcoholic extraction of cannabis resin. A wide variety of names are used for cannabis products according to their nature and the geographical area. In addition to the Indian words above, the names hashish (Arabia), marihuana (Europe, USA), kief and dagga (Africa) are frequently used. The term 'assassin' is a corruption of 'hashishin', a group of 13th century murderous Persians who were said to have been rewarded for their activities with hashish. The names grass, dope, pot, hash, weed, and wacky backy are more likely to be in current usage.

numbered as substituted terpene

systematic numbering cannabigerol O

numbered as substituted terpene

systematic numbering anandamide cannabigerol O

anandamide

CO2H

tetrahydrocannabinolic acid B

tetrahydrocannabivarin cannabichromene O

cannabichromene O

2-arachidonoylglycerol

CO2H

tetrahydrocannabinolic acid B

tetrahydrocannabivarin

Figure 3.53

2-arachidonoylglycerol

nabilone

Figure 3.53

The quantity of resin produced by the flowering tops of high quality Indian cannabis is about 15-20%. The amount produced by various plants is dependent on several features, however, and this will markedly alter biological properties. Thus, in general, plants grown in a tropical climate produce more resin than those grown in a temperate climate. The tall fibre-producing plants are typically low resin producers, even in tropical zones. However, the most important factor is the genetic strain of the plant, and the resin produced may contain high levels of psychoactive compounds, or mainly inactive constituents. The quality of any cannabis drug is potentially highly variable.

The major constituents in cannabis are termed cannabinoids, a group of more than 60 structurally related terpenophenolics. The principal psychoactive agent is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (Figure 3.51). This is variously referred to as A1-THC or A9-THC according to whether the numbering is based on the terpene portion, or as a systematic dibenzopyran (Figure 3.53). Both systems are currently in use. Also found, often in rather similar amounts, are cannabinol (CBN) and cannabidiol (CBD) (Figure 3.51), which have negligible psychoactive properties. These compounds predominate in the inactive resins. Many other cannabinoid structures have been characterized, including cannabigerol and cannabichromene (Figure 3.53). A range of cannabinoid acids, e.g. cannabidiolic acid, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid B (Figure 3.53) are also present, as are some analogues of the other compounds mentioned, where a propyl side-chain replaces the pentyl group, e.g. tetrahydrocannabivarin (Figure 3.53). The latter compounds presumably arise from the use of butyrate rather than hexanoate as starter unit in the biosynthetic sequence.

The THC content of high quality cannabis might be in the range 0.5-1% for large leaves, 1-3% for small leaves, 3-7% for flowering tops, 5-10% for bracts, 14-25% for resin, and up to 60% in cannabis oil. Higher amounts of THC are produced in selected strains known as skunk cannabis, so named because of their powerful smell; flowering tops from skunk varieties might contain 10-15% THC. The THC content in cannabis products tends to deteriorate on storage, an effect accelerated by heat and light. Cannabis leaf and resin stored under ordinary conditions rapidly lose their activity and can be essentially inactive after about 2 years. A major change which occurs is oxidation in the cyclohexene ring resulting in conversion of THC into CBN. THC is more potent when smoked than when taken orally, its volatility allowing rapid absorption and immediate effects, so smoking has become the normal means of using cannabis. Any cannabinoid acids will almost certainly be decarboxylated upon heating, and thus the smoking process will also effectively increase somewhat the levels of active cannabinoids available, e.g. THC acid ^ THC (Figure 3.51). The smoking of cannabis produces a mild euphoria similar to alcohol intoxication, inducing relaxation, contentment, and a sense of well-being, with some changes in perception of sound and colour. However, this is accompanied by a reduced ability to concentrate and do complicated tasks, and a loss of short-term memory. Users claim cannabis is much preferable to alcohol or tobacco, insisting it does not cause dependence, withdrawal symptoms, or lead to the use of other drugs, and they campaign vociferously for its legalization. However, psychological dependence does occur, and cannabis can lead to hallucinations, depression, anxiety, and panic, with the additional risk of bronchitis and lung cancer if the product is smoked.

Cannabis has been used medicinally, especially as a mild analgesic and tranquillzer, but more effective and reliable agents replaced it, and even controlled prescribing was discontinued. In recent times, cannabis has been shown to have valuable anti-emetic properties, which help to reduce the side-effects of nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapeutic agents. This activity stems from THC, and has resulted in some use of THC (dronabinol) and the prescribing of cannabis for a small number of patients. A synthetic THC analogue, nabilone (Figure 3.53), has been developed as an anti-emetic drug for reducing cytotoxic-induced vomiting. Some of the psychoactive properties of THC, e.g. euphoria, mild hallucinations, and visual disturbances, may be experienced as side-effects of nabilone treatment. Cannabis has also been shown to possess properties which may be of value in other medical conditions. There is now ample evidence that cannabis can give relief to patients suffering from chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, asthma, migraine, epilepsy, and other conditions. Many sufferers who cannot seem to benefit from any of the current range of drugs are obtaining relief from their symptoms by using cannabis, but are breaking the law to obtain this medication. Current thinking is that cannabis offers a number of beneficial pharmacological responses and that there should be legal prescribing of cannabinoids or derivatives. Clinical trials have already confirmed the value of cannabis and/or THC taken orally for the relief of chronic pain and the painful spasms characteristic of multiple sclerosis, and in reducing intraocular pressure in glaucoma sufferers. In general, cannabis is only able to alleviate the symptoms of these diseases, and does not provide a cure. The non-psychoactive CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties potentially useful in arthritis treatment.

Recently, the ethanolamide of arachidonic acid (anandamide; ananda is the Sanskrit word for bliss) (Figure 3.53) has been isolated from animal brain tissue, and has been shown to mimic several of the pharmacological properties of THC. This appears to be a natural ligand which interacts with central receptors (CB1) to which cannabinoids also bind. Two other polyunsaturated fatty acid ethanolamides, namely dihomo-y-linolenoyl- (20:3) and adrenoyl- (22:4) ethanolamides have also been isolated from mammalian brain, and shown to have THC-like properties. Another type of cannabinoid receptor (CB2), expressed mainly in the immune system, has been identified; its natural ligand is 2-arachidonoylglycerol (Figure 3.53). Since this compound also interacts with the anandamide receptor, and levels of 2-arachidonoylglycerol in the brain are some 800 times higher than those of anandamide, it is now thought to be the physiological ligand for both receptors, rather than anandamide. The identification of these endogenous materials may open up other ways of exploiting some of the desirable pharmacological features of cannabis.

Table 3.3 Tetracyclines

NHR5

NHR5

OH

O OH

R1

R2

R3

R4

R5

5

6a

7

tetracycline

H

Me

OH

H

H

chlortetracycline

H

Me

OH

Cl

H

oxytetracycline

OH

Me

OH

H

H

demeclocycline

H

H

OH

H

H

methacycline doxycycline minocycline lymecycline

Me OH H

,co2h nh2

natural semisynthetic

The tetracyclines* (Table 3.3) are a group of broad spectrum, orally active antibiotics produced by species of Streptomyces, and several natural and semi-synthetic members are used clinically. They contain a linear tetracyclic skeleton of polyketide origin in which the starter group is malonamyl-CoA (Figure 3.54), i.e. the coenzyme A ester of malonate semi-amide. Thus, in contrast to most acetate-derived compounds, malonate supplies all carbon atoms of the tetracycline skeleton, the starter group as well as the chain extenders. The main features of the pathway (Figure 3.54) were deduced from extensive studies of mutant strains of Streptomyces aureofaciens with genetic blocks causing accumulation of mutant metabolites or production of abnormal tetracyclines. This organism typically produces chlortetracycline, whilst the parent compound tetracycline (Table 3.3) is in fact an aberrant product synthesized in mutants blocked in the chlorination step. The use of mutants with genetic blocks has also enabled the shikimate pathway (Chapter 4) to be delineated. In that case, since a primary metabolic pathway was affected, mutants tended to accumulate intermediates and could not grow unless later components of the pathway were supplied. With the tetracy-clines, a secondary metabolic pathway is involved, and the relatively broad specificity of some of the reduction

CoAS

O O malonamyl-CoA

8 x malonyl-CoA

YYWy

SEnz NH2

c-methylation c-methylation

OH O OH O O enzyme-bound anthrone

SEnz

OH O OH O O enzyme-bound anthrone oxidation of 1,4-quinol O to quinone

hydroxylation at activated OH centre para to phenol .OH

OH OH OH OH O 6-methylpretetramide

tautomerism to keto form, followed by Ho hydration of double bond chlorination at activated position para to phenol

OH OH OH OH O 6-methylpretetramide

OHll

OHll

OHll

transamination

OHll

transamination

OHll

OHll

ClHO , reduction of double bond of a,P-unsaturated ketone; enol form is then favoured due to conjugation

NMe2

NMe2

OHll

OH O OH O O chlortetracycline

NADPH

OHll

OH O OH O O chlortetracycline

OH O

hydroxylation; consider the tautomeric

CH-CH=CH-C=O form

NADPH

OH O

OHll

dehydrochlortetracycline

Figure 3.54

O2 NADPH

OHll

dehydrochlortetracycline

Figure 3.54

NMe2

NMe2

O2 NADPH

OHll

OH OH O O O anhydrochlortetracycline

OHll

OH OH O O O anhydrochlortetracycline

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