Relaxins enhance growth of spontaneous murine breast cancers as well as metastatic colonization of the brain

Clin Exp Metastasis. 2014 Jan;31(1):57-65. doi: 10.1007/s10585-013-9609-2. Epub 2013 Aug 21.


Relaxins are known for their tissue remodeling capacity which is also a hallmark of cancer progression. However, their role in the latter context is still unclear, particularly in breast cancer. In a mouse model with spontaneously arising breast cancer due to erbB2-overexpression we show that exposure to porcine relaxin results in significantly enhanced tumour growth as compared to control animals. This is accompanied by increased serum concentrations of progesterone and estradiol as well as elevated expression of the respective receptors and the relaxin receptor RXFP1 in the tumour tissue. It is also associated with enhanced infiltration by tumour-associated macrophages which are known to promote tumour progression. Additionally, we show in an ex vivo model of metastatic brain colonization that porcine relaxin as well as human brain-specific relaxin-3 promotes invasion into the brain tissue and enhance interaction of breast cancer cells with the resident brain macrophages, the microglia. Relaxin signaling is mediated via RXFP1, since R 3/I5, a specific agonist of the relaxin-3 receptor RXFP3 in the brain, does not significantly enhance invasion. Taken together, these findings strongly support a role of relaxins in the progression of breast cancer where they foster primary tumour growth as well as metastatic colonization by direct and indirect means.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness*
  • Relaxin / metabolism*
  • Relaxin / pharmacology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Relaxin