Relaxin regulates cervical extracellular matrix (ECM) remodelling during pregnancy by modifying collagen and other ECM molecules by unknown mechanisms. We hypothesised that abnormal collagen remodelling in the cervix of pregnant relaxin-deficient (Rln1 -/-) mice is due to excessive collagen (Col1a1 and Col3a1) and decreased matrix metalloproteinases (Mmp2, Mmp9, Mmp13 and Mmp7) and oestrogen receptors (Esr1 and Esr2). Quantitative polymerase chain reaction, gelatinase zymography, MMP activity assays and histological staining evaluated changes in ECM in pregnant wildtype (Rln1 +/+) and Rln1 -/- mice. Cervical Col1a1, Col3a1 and total collagen increased in Rln1 -/- mice and were higher at term compared with Rln1 +/+ mice. This was not correlated with a decrease in gelatinase (Mmp2, Mmp9) expression or activity, Mmp7 or Mmp13 expression, which were all significantly higher in Rln1 -/- mice. In late pregnancy, circulating MMP2 and MMP9 were unchanged. Esr1 expression was highest in Rln1 +/+ and Rln1 -/- mice in late pregnancy, coinciding with a decrease in Esr2 in Rln1 +/+ but not Rln1 -/- mice. The relaxin receptor (Rxfp1) decreased slightly in late-pregnant Rln1 +/+ mice, but was significantly higher in Rln1 -/- mice. In summary, relaxin deficiency results in increased cervical collagen in late pregnancy, which is not explained by a reduction in Mmp expression or activity or decreased Rxfp1. However, an imbalance between Esr1 and Esr2 may be involved.
- oestrogen receptor