An Approach to Biomarker Discovery of Cannabis Use Utilizing Proteomic, Metabolomic, and Lipidomic Analyses

Jesse D. Hinckley, Laura Saba, Kristen Raymond, Karsten Bartels, Jost Klawitter, Uwe Christians, Christian Hopfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Relatively little is known about the molecular pathways influenced by cannabis use in humans. We used a multi-omics approach to examine protein, metabolomic, and lipid markers in plasma differentiating between cannabis users and nonusers to understand markers associated with cannabis use. Methods: Eight discordant twin pairs and four concordant twin pairs for cannabis use completed a blood draw, urine and plasma toxicology testing, and provided information about their past 30-day cannabis use and other substance use patterns. The 24 twins were all non-Hispanic whites. Sixty-six percent were female. Median age was 30 years. Fifteen participants reported that they had used cannabis in the last 30 days, including eight participants that used every day or almost every day (29-30 of 30 days). Of these 15 participants, plasma 11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-COOH) and total tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrations were detectable in 12 participants. Among the eight "heavy users"the amount of total THC (sum of THC and its metabolites) and plasma THC-COOH concentrations varied widely, with ranges of 13.1-1713 ng/mL and 2.7-284 ng/mL, respectively. A validated liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) assay measured plasma THC-COOH, THC, and other cannabinoids and metabolites. Plasma THC-COOH was used as the primary measure. Expression levels of 1305 proteins were measured using SOMAScan assay, and 34 lipid mediators and 314 metabolites were measured with LC-MS/MS. Analyses examined associations between markers and THC-COOH levels with and without taking genetic relatedness into account. Results: Thirteen proteins, three metabolites, and two lipids were identified as associated with THC-COOH levels. Myc proto-oncogene was identified as associated with THC-COOH levels in both molecular insight and potential marker analyses. Five pathways (interleukin-6 production, T lymphocyte regulation, apoptosis, kinase signaling pathways, and nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells) were linked with molecules identified in these analyses. Conclusions: THC-COOH levels are associated with immune system-related pathways. This study presents a feasible approach to identify additional molecular markers associated with THC-COOH levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-77
Number of pages13
JournalCannabis and Cannabinoid Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Myc proto-oncogene
  • cannabis
  • markers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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