Secondary metabolites of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) and their role in defence against pests and pathogens


  • Luka Bitežnik
  • Marina Dermastia
  • Stanislav Trdan



cannabinoids, Cannabid sativa L, hemp, flavonoids, pests, pathogens, terpenoids


Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is a globally distributed plant with a complex phytochemistry. Secondary metabolism is extremely rich. Secondary metabolites are substances whose role is the interaction of the plant with the environment. Their synthesis depends on the presence of stress and is very energy-consuming. They protect plants from pests and pathogens, as well as from abiotic factors. Cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids are the predominant substances concentrated in the inflorescences of female plants. Their ecological role and function are not yet fully understood. The cannabinoids Δ-9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and others probably act as antioxidants, and based on their spatially isolated synthesis and cytotoxic byproducts, they are thought to be involved in the plant's defense system. Under stress, their content increases and the chemical profile changes. Stress activates stress signaling molecules - jasmonic acid and its derivatives, which affect the release of terpenoids, and increases the expression of genes in the phenylpropanoid pathway, which is crucial for the synthesis of flavonoids. Secondary metabolites act synergistically and in conjunction with the microbiome - endophytic bacteria and fungi - have a negative effect on harmful organisms and protect the plant.


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How to Cite

Bitežnik, L., Dermastia, M., & Trdan, S. (2023). Secondary metabolites of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) and their role in defence against pests and pathogens . Acta Biologica Slovenica, 66(1), 78–89.