The physiological role of relaxin during pregnancy and at parturition in the rat is not absolutely established. There are limitations to the experimental approach used in the few studies that examined the influence of relaxin in the pregnant rat. These studies were unphysiological, since they involved administration of porcine relaxin as well as progesterone and estrogen to ovariectomized pregnant rats. A more physiological approach is to use antibodies to neutralize the biological actions of endogenous relaxin in the intact pregnant rat. The purpose of the present study was to produce and characterize monoclonal antibodies suitable for this approach. Six stable and rapidly growing hybridoma clones which produced monoclonal antibodies specific for rat relaxin (MCA-rR) were obtained after the fusion of NSO mouse myeloma cells with lymphocytes from the spleen of a BALB/c mouse immunized with rat relaxin. Five MCA-rR (MCA1-5; all immunoglobulin G1 kappa) inhibited the ability of exogenously administered rat relaxin to increase the interpubic ligament length in estrogen-primed mice. Of the five MCA-rR that neutralized rat relaxin's bioactivity in vivo, MCA1 exhibited the highest relative affinity for rat relaxin. MCA1 was also highly specific for rat relaxin. MCA1 demonstrated no cross-reactivity with rat insulin, rat insulin-like growth factor I and II, or porcine relaxin-proteins that are structurally related to rat relaxin. In view of its high affinity and high specificity for rat relaxin as well as its ability to neutralize rat relaxin's bioactivity in vivo, MCA1 was selected for use in subsequent studies aimed at the neutralization of endogenous relaxin in intact pregnant rats.