Biology of primate relaxin: a paracrine signal in early pregnancy?
Relaxin is a peptide hormone that exerts numerous effects in a variety of tissues across a broad range of species. Although first identified more than 75 years ago interest in relaxin biology has waxed and waned over the years consistent with peaks and troughs of new experimental data on its wide-ranging biological effects and advances in relaxin enabling technologies. Recent insights into species-dependent differences in relaxin biology during pregnancy have once again stimulated a relative surge of interest in the study of relaxin's reproductive biology. Identification and pharmacological characterization of orphaned relaxin receptors and exploration of its paracrine effects on pregnancy using genomic and proteomic technologies have succeeded in fueling current interest in relaxin research. Primates and non-primate vertebrates exhibit very disparate profiles of relaxin genomics, proteomics and functional biology. Non-human primates appear to exhibit a very close similarity to humans with respect to relaxin reproductive biology but the similarities and subtle differences are only just beginning to be understood. We, and others, have shown that relaxin produces significant changes to the non-human primate endometrium during the peri-implantation period that are consistent with relaxin's long perceived role as a paracrine modulator of pregnancy. The purpose of this review is to summarize the reproductive biology of relaxin in non-human primates with a specific emphasis on the paracrine role of ovarian and endometrial relaxin during embryo implantation and early pregnancy.