Relaxin peptide hormones are protective during the early stages of ischemic stroke in male rats.

PMID 25456068


The pregnancy hormone relaxin protects tissue from ischemic damage. The ability of relaxin-3, a relaxin paralog, to do so has not been explored. The cerebral expression levels of these peptides and their receptors make them logical targets for study in the ischemic brain. We assessed relaxin peptide-mediated protection, relative relaxin family peptide receptor (RXFP) involvement, and protective mechanisms. Sprague-Dawley rats receiving permanent (pMCAO) or transient middle cerebral artery occlusions (tMCAO) were treated with relaxin peptides, and brains were collected for infarct analysis. Activation of the endothelial nitric oxide synthase pathway was evaluated as a potential protective mechanism. Primary cortical rat astrocytes were exposed to oxygen glucose deprivation and treated with relaxin peptides, and viability was examined. Receptor involvement was explored using RXFP3 antagonist or agonist treatment and real-time PCR. Relaxin and relaxin-3 reduced infarct size after pMCAO. Both peptides activated endothelial nitric oxide synthase. Because relaxin-3 has not previously been associated with this pathway and displays promiscuous RXFP binding, we explored the receptor contribution. Expression of rxfp1 was greater than that of rxfp3 in rat brain, although peptide binding at either receptor resulted in similar overall protection after pMCAO. Only RXFP3 activation reduced infarct size after tMCAO. In astrocytes, rxfp3 gene expression was greater than that of rxfp1. Selective activation of RXFP3 maintained astrocyte viability after oxygen glucose deprivation. Relaxin peptides are protective during the early stages of ischemic stroke. Differential responses among treatments and models suggest that RXFP1 and RXFP3 initiate different protective mechanisms. This preliminary work is a pivotal first step in identifying the clinical implications of relaxin peptides in ischemic stroke.