Nephrology, dialysis, transplantation : official publication of the European Dialysis and Transplant Association - European Renal Association

Relaxin down-regulates renal fibroblast function and promotes matrix remodelling in vitro.

PMID 14767007


Renal fibroblasts are important effector cells in tubulointerstitial fibrosis, with experimental antifibrotic strategies focusing on the functional down-regulation of these cells. Several experimental models of fibrosis have provided evidence for the effectiveness of the polypeptide hormone relaxin as a potential antifibrotic agent. This study was conducted to further elucidate the antifibrotic mechanisms of relaxin on renal fibroblasts in vitro. Rat cortical fibroblasts were obtained from outgrowth culture of renal tissue isolated from kidneys 3 days post-unilateral ureteric obstruction and constituted 100% of cells studied. A relaxin radio-receptor assay was used to establish binding of relaxin to renal fibroblasts in vitro. Functional studies then examined the effects of H2 relaxin (0, 1, 10 and 100 ng/ml) on fibroblast kinetics, expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA), total collagen synthesis, collagenase production and collagen-I lattice contraction. CTGF mRNA expression was also measured by northern analysis. H2 relaxin bound with high affinity to rat renal fibroblasts, but receptor numbers were low. Consistent with its previously reported bimodal effect, transforming growth factor (TGF-beta 1) reduced fibroblast proliferation, an effect abrogated by H2 relaxin. Fibroblasts exposed to H2 relaxin (100 ng/ml) for 24 h demonstrated decreased immunostaining for alpha-SMA and reduced alpha-SMA protein expression compared with controls. There was a trend for a relaxin-mediated reduction in total collagen synthesis and alpha 1(I) mRNA expression with large dose-related increases in collagenase protein expression being observed. TGF-beta 1-stimulated collagen-I lattice contraction was significantly inhibited following co-incubation with 100 ng/ml relaxin. Incremental doses of H2 relaxin had no significant effect on CTGF mRNA expression. The findings of this study suggest that the antifibrotic effects of relaxin involve down-regulation of fibroblast activity, increase in collagenase synthesis and restructuring of collagen-I lattices, which are consistent with its known physiological role of matrix remodelling. Although there appears to be an interaction between TGF-beta 1 and H2 relaxin, this does not appear to involve a reduction in CTGF mRNA expression.

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