Myocardial injury caused by ischemia and reperfusion comes from multiple pathogenic events, including endothelial damage, neutrophil extravasation into tissue, platelet and mast cell activation, and peroxidation of cell membrane lipids, which are followed by myocardial cell alterations resulting eventually in cell necrosis. The current study was designed to test the possible cardioprotective effect of the hormone relaxin, which has been found to cause coronary vessel dilation and to inhibit platelet and mast cell activation. Ischemia (for 30 minutes) was induced in rat hearts in vivo by ligature of the left anterior descending coronary artery; reperfusion (for 60 minutes or less if the rats died before this predetermined time) was induced by removal of the ligature. Relaxin (100 ng) was given intravenously 30 minutes before ischemia. The results obtained showed that relaxin strongly reduces 1) the extension of the myocardial areas affected by ischemia-reperfusion-induced damage, 2) ventricular arrhythmias, 3) mortality, 4) myocardial neutrophil number, 5) myeloperoxidase activity, a marker of neutrophil accumulation, 6) production of malonyldialdehyde, an end product of lipid peroxidation, 7) mast cell granule release, 8) calcium overload, and 9) morphological signs of myocardial cell injury. This study shows that relaxin can be regarded as an agent with a marked cardioprotective action against ischemia-reperfusion-induced myocardial injury.