Relaxin and its role in pregnancy

Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 1995 Mar;24(1):171-86.


Relaxin is a 6000-d polypeptide, structurally related to insulin and the insulin-like growth factors. Unlike insulin, the structure of which is remarkably well conserved among the vertebrates, relaxin sequences can vary by more than 50% between different species. Despite these large sequence variations, relaxins (with few exceptions) have very similar biologic activities in animal test systems. The reason for this has recently come to light: the receptor binding region of the B chain, in contrast to the rest of the molecule, is highly conserved between species. Relaxin is measured by bioassays employing interpubic ligament formation in mice and guinea pigs, and by inhibition of uterine motility. A more sensitive and efficient bioassay is urgently needed. In women, the target organs for relaxin are the uterine cervix, myometrium, endometrium, and decidua. Other presumptive but unproven targets are the pubic symphysis and sacroiliac joints, mammary glands, and pituitary gland. Circulating relaxin is secreted by the corpus luteum. The placenta, decidua, or both also produce relaxin, which does not enter the circulation but may act in an autocrine or paracrine fashion. hCG is a stimulus to luteal relaxin secretion. Other regulatory factors are poorly defined. Aluteal women are hyporelaxinemic, and yet are capable of normal vaginal delivery of their infants. Local effects of placental or decidual relaxin cannot be discounted in such subjects. Hyperrelaxinemia may occur in women with multiple gestations and ovarian stimulation, and may be associated with increased premature births. Serum relaxin also is elevated in pregnant diabetics, but its role in this condition has not been defined. Clearly, further investigations are needed to delineate the precise role of relaxin in human pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Assay
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Pregnancy, Animal / physiology*
  • Relaxin / chemistry
  • Relaxin / pharmacology
  • Relaxin / physiology*


  • Relaxin