Relaxin's physiological roles and other diverse actions

Endocr Rev. 2004 Apr;25(2):205-34. doi: 10.1210/er.2003-0013.


Relaxin has vital physiological roles in pregnant rats, mice, and pigs. Relaxin promotes growth and softening of the cervix, thus facilitating rapid delivery of live young. Relaxin also promotes development of the mammary apparatus, thus enabling normal lactational performance. The actions of relaxin on the mammary apparatus vary among species. Whereas relaxin is required for development of the mammary nipples in rats and mice, it is essential for prepartum development of glandular parenchyma in pregnant pigs. During pregnancy relaxin also inhibits uterine contractility and promotes the osmoregulatory changes of pregnancy in rats. Recent studies with male and nonpregnant female rodents revealed diverse therapeutic actions of relaxin on nonreproductive tissues that have clinical implications. Relaxin has been reported to reduce fibrosis in the kidney, heart, lung, and liver and to promote wound healing. Also, probably through its vasodilatory actions, relaxin protects the heart from ischemia-induced injury. Finally, relaxin counteracts allergic reactions. Knowledge of the diverse physiological and therapeutic actions of relaxin, coupled with the recent identification of relaxin receptors, opens numerous avenues of investigation that will likely sustain a high level of research interest in relaxin for the foreseeable future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Embryo Implantation
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Heart / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Lactation
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Ovarian Follicle / physiology
  • Ovulation
  • Parturition
  • Pregnancy
  • Relaxin / chemistry
  • Relaxin / physiology*
  • Reproduction
  • Wound Healing


  • Relaxin