Increased expression of endothelial adhesion molecules, high levels of the monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) and enhanced VLA4 integrin/VCAM-1 and CCR-2/MCP-1 interactions are initial steps in vascular inflammation. We sought to determine whether relaxin, a potent vasodilatory and anti-fibrotic agent, mitigates these early events compromising endothelial integrity. The effect of relaxin coincubation on the TNF-α-stimulated expression of the adhesion molecules VCAM-1, ICAM-1 and E-selectin; the MCP-1 expression by human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) and human aortic smooth muscle cells (HAoSMC); as well as on direct monocyte-endothelium cell adhesion was quantified by ELISA or adhesion assay. CCR-2 and PECAM expression on HUVEC and THP-1 monocytes was investigated by FACS analysis. Relaxin treatment suppressed significantly TNF-α-induced upregulation of VCAM-1 and PECAM, CCR-2, and MCP-1 levels and direct monocyte adhesion to HUVEC. Our findings identify relaxin as a promising inhibitory factor in early vascular inflammation. By attenuating the upregulation of VCAM-1, key adhesion molecule in early vascular inflammation, and of MCP-1, a chemokine pivotal to monocyte recruitment, relaxin decreased initial monocyte-endothelium contact. This may be of relevance for the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis and of other pro-inflammatory states.
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