The aim of this study was to examine the effects of relaxin on collagen content, solubility, and composition in the rat pubic symphysis. Nonpregnant, female Sprague-Dawley rats were bilaterally ovariectomized and either unprimed or primed with estrogen or progesterone alone, or a combination of estrogen and progesterone. One week later these animals were given increasing doses of a synthetic human (gene-2) relaxin (0-100 μg) before being killed 16 h later. Their pubic symphysial tissues were then removed and analyzed for collagen content and solubility, whereas collagen composition was determined by SDS-PAGE. Relaxin administration significantly increased the length (140 ± 6%) and weight (170 ± 9%) of the interpubic fibrocartilage in estrogen- primed rats (n = 15). At the same time, it decreased the total collagen content by 68 ± 6%, without altering the proportions of collagen types, which were predominantly type I (85%) and type II collagen (15%). Relaxin administered alone reduced the total collagen content by 64 ± 4% but had no effect on collagen solubility or composition. Progesterone abolished the effects of relaxin in estrogen-primed rats. It is concluded that relaxin has a potent effect on the amount of collagen in the rat pubic symphysis that is enhanced by estrogen and antagonized by progesterone. The changes in the extracellular matrix within the pubic symphysis induced by relaxin may be important in the modifications that this tissue undergoes during pregnancy.