A team from the Department of Plant Biology at Michigan State University published the kratom genome, or the complete contents of genetic material in an organism. Using Rifat kratom trees grown in a greenhouse at the university, the team analyzed plant material to generate a draft assembly of mitragyna specioca for the first time.
As explained in the paper’s abstract, “Access to the genome of M. speciosa will facilitate an improved understanding of alkaloid biosynthesis,” or how kratom alkaloids are produced in the plant, “and accelerate production of bioactive alkaloids in heterologous hosts”, meaning kratom alkaloids, with this genetic information, could be reproduced in host organisms that do not naturally contain them. Heterologous expression is used in genetics to study protein interaction.
The paper includes an excellent summary of the Rubiaceae family of flowering plants, of which kratom, coffee, cacao (the chocolate bean), grape and tomato vines are member species. “The family is well known for its specialized metabolism, of which, a number of species have been cultivated for human use” that have “commercial or pharmaceutical relevance, including many important alkaloid-producing species” some of which have “aphrodisiac or psychoactive properties”.
The team discovered that “M. speciosa is a tetraploid”, meaning kratom has four sets of chromosomes.
Kratom also contains 72 clusters of specialized metabolism genes, the discovery of which will aid scientists in understanding not only how kratom itself works, but “will aid in improving our understanding of the evolution of plant specialized metabolic pathways”.
The mapping of the kratom genome can lead to the development of beneficial medicines derived from kratom, as well as a greater understanding of safe and effective applications of the plant itself for those who consume it.
Kratom genome paper cited:
Brose, J., Lau, K. H., Dang, T., Hamilton, J. P., Martins, L., Hamberger, B., Hamberger, B., Jiang, J., O’Connor, S. E., & Buell, C. R. (2021). The Mitragyna speciosa (Kratom) Genome: A resource for data-mining potent pharmaceuticals that impact human health. G3 (Bethesda, Md.), jkab058. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/g3journal/jkab058
Full Text (abstract with link to PDF download): https://academic.oup.com/g3journal/advance-article/doi/10.1093/g3journal/jkab058/6156838