The reproductive hormone, relaxin, inhibits collagen synthesis in vitro by normal human dermal fibroblast. In the present study, recombinant human relaxin is shown to modulate collagen accumulation and organization by mesenchymal cells in vivo in two rodent models of fibrosis: 1) fibrotic infiltration of polyvinyl alcohol sponge implants in rats, and 2) capsule formation around implanted osmotic pumps in mice. In the sponge, relaxin inhibits collagen accumulation, a measured by hydroxyproline content, in a dose-responsive manner by up to 25-29% in animals receiving 30 ng/ml relaxin, a finding supported by a decrease in collagen-specific trichrome staining in sections of sponges from relaxin-treated animals. In mice, the capsules surrounding relaxin-containing pumps are thinner and less dense than are capsules from control pumps. Ultrastructurally, control capsules are composed of densely packed parallel arrays of collagen fibrils, whereas fibrils more frequently are not packed in parallel arrays and are less abundant in treated capsules.