From pregnancy to cardiovascular disease: Lessons from relaxin-deficient animals to understand relaxin actions in the vascular system Academic Article uri icon


  • Early maternal vascular adaptations to pregnancy are predominantly driven by changes in vascular tone, reactivity, and remodeling. Failure of the maternal systemic vasculature to adapt sufficiently can lead to serious complications of pregnancy. The hormone relaxin is widely recognized for its contribution to the essential renal and systemic hemodynamic adaptations in early pregnancy through direct actions on the maternal vasculature. Studies in relaxin gene knockout mice revealed that endogenous relaxin is not only a "pregnancy hormone" but has pleiotropic actions in various tissues in males and non-pregnant females. There is strong interest in relaxin's actions in the vasculature and its utility in the treatment of vascular diseases. Relaxin treatment in rodents for 2-5┬ádays or acute intravenous injection enhances endothelium-dependent relaxation and decreases myogenic tone in resistance arteries. These vascular actions are prolonged, even in the absence of circulating relaxin, and are underpinned by the production of endothelium-derived relaxing factors including nitric oxide, endothelium-derived hyperpolarization, and prostacyclin. Relaxin is also capable of remodeling the vascular wall in a variety of blood vessels in disease conditions. Lessons learned in pregnancy research have aided studies investigating the potential therapeutic potential of relaxin in cardiovascular disease.


  • Jelinic, Maria
  • Marshall, Sarah A
  • Leo, Chen H
  • Parry, Laura J
  • Tare, Marianne

publication date

  • 2018