Relationship of relaxin hormone and thumb carpometacarpal joint arthritis

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2014 Apr;472(4):1130-7. doi: 10.1007/s11999-013-2960-4.


Background: The female predominance in thumb carpometacarpal (CMC) joint arthritis has led to speculation that reproductive hormones or hypermobility are responsible. Evidence shows that patients with pathologic laxity have a higher rate of thumb CMC arthritis. Relaxin hormone increases laxity in the pelvic ligaments through upregulation of matrix metalloproteases (MMPs). It is thus a hormone of interest in the development of thumb CMC arthritis.

Questions/purposes: Our goals were to identify demographic and hormonal factors associated with joint laxity in patients with CMC arthritis and to evaluate the relationship among serum relaxin, relaxin receptors, and MMPs in the anterior oblique ligament (AOL) of the thumb. We hypothesized that serum relaxin was correlated with joint laxity as well as with relaxin receptors and MMPs in the AOL.

Methods: Forty-nine patients undergoing thumb CMC arthroplasty underwent laxity examination, blood draw, and AOL sampling. Ligaments were analyzed for relaxin receptor and MMPs 1 and 3 using quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction.

Results: Women demonstrated more joint laxity than men (p < 0.001). RNA analysis confirmed relaxin receptors in the AOL as well as MMPs 1 and 3. There was a significant correlation between serum relaxin and MMP-1 (p = 0.04). Detectable serum relaxin was negatively correlated with relaxin receptors in the AOL (p = 0.02).

Conclusions: Further studies are needed to evaluate the role of laxity and sex hormones in thumb CMC arthritis.

Clinical relevance: Relaxin hormone may play a role in the development of arthritis at the thumb CMC joint.

Level of evidence: Level I, prognostic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthritis / blood
  • Arthritis / etiology*
  • Arthritis / genetics
  • Arthritis / physiopathology
  • Arthritis / surgery
  • Arthroplasty
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Carpometacarpal Joints / metabolism*
  • Carpometacarpal Joints / physiopathology*
  • Carpometacarpal Joints / surgery
  • Colorado
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / blood
  • Joint Instability / complications*
  • Joint Instability / genetics
  • Joint Instability / physiopathology
  • Joint Instability / surgery
  • Ligaments / chemistry
  • Ligaments / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1 / genetics
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 3 / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, Peptide / genetics
  • Relaxin / blood*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Thumb / physiopathology*
  • Thumb / surgery


  • Biomarkers
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Peptide
  • relaxin receptors
  • Relaxin
  • MMP3 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 3
  • MMP1 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1