H3 relaxin demonstrates antifibrotic properties via the RXFP1 receptor

Biochemistry. 2011 Mar 1;50(8):1368-75. doi: 10.1021/bi1013968. Epub 2011 Jan 31.


Human gene 3 (H3) relaxin is the most recently discovered member of the relaxin peptide family and can potentially bind all of the defined relaxin family peptide receptors (RXFP1-4). While its effects as a neuromodulator are being increasingly studied through its primary receptor, RXFP3, its actions via other RXFPs are poorly understood. Hence, we specifically determined the antifibrotic effects and mechanisms of action of H3 relaxin via the RXFP1 receptor using primary rat ventricular fibroblasts in vitro, which naturally express RXFP1, but not RXFP3, and a mouse model of fibrotic cardiomyopathy in vivo. Transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) administration to ventricular fibroblasts significantly increased Smad2 phosphorylation, myofibroblast differentiation, and collagen deposition (all p < 0.05 vs untreated controls), while having no marked effect on matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) 9, MMP-13, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP) 1, or TIMP-2 expression over 72 h. H3 relaxin (at 100 and 250 ng/mL) almost completely abrogated the TGF-β1-stimulated collagen deposition over 72 h, and its effects at 100 ng/mL were equivalent to that of the same dose of H2 relaxin. Furthermore, H3 relaxin (100 ng/mL) significantly inhibited TGF-β1-stimulated cardiac myofibroblast differentiation and TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 expression to an equivalent extent as H2 relaxin (100 ng/mL), while also inhibiting Smad2 phosphorylation to approximately half the extent of H2 relaxin (all p < 0.05 vs TGF-β1). Lower doses of H3 (50 ng/mL) and H2 (50 ng/mL) relaxin additively inhibited TGF-β1-stimulated collagen deposition in vitro, while H3 relaxin was also found to reverse left ventricular collagen overexpression in the model of fibrotic cardiomyopathy in vivo. These combined findings demonstrate that H3 relaxin exerts antifibrotic actions via RXFP1 and may enhance the collagen-inhibitory effects of H2 relaxin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Drug Synergism
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Fibrosis / drug therapy
  • Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / drug effects
  • Heart Ventricles / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Peptide / metabolism*
  • Relaxin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Relaxin / pharmacology
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinases / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / pharmacology


  • RLN2 protein, human
  • RLN3 protein, human
  • RXFP1 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Peptide
  • Rxfp1 protein, rat
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinases
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • Relaxin
  • Collagen
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases