Relaxin (RLN) is a systemic hormone from the corpus luteum, and its levels remain low during normal human gestation. Indeed, elevation of circulating RLN has long been associated with preterm birth, for which there has been no physiological explanation. Recent studies have shown that RLN suppresses endotoxin-induced cytokine secretion from THP-1 monocytic cells by acting on the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), but its effects on primary macrophages are unknown. Therefore, in the present study, we examined the effects of RLN on cytokine secretion from primary decidual macrophages (DMs) obtained at term before labor. Unlike THP-1 cells, RLN had no effects on the cytokine responses induced by either lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or interleukin (IL) 1B, mimicking infection-induced or sterile inflammation, respectively. However, RLN alone for 4 h significantly decreased (P < 0.05) colony-stimulating factor 2 (CSF2; also known as granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor) and IL8 but for 24 h significantly increased IL6 (P < 0.01). We show that DMs express both the RLN receptor (RXFP1) and the GR. RLN suppression of CSF2 and IL8 was sensitive to the GR-antagonist mifepristone (RU-486). However, RLN activation of RXFP1 induced a dose-dependent cAMP response, which when mimicked by forskolin also caused significantly increased (P < 0.05) secretion of IL6. Thus, RLN may be anti-inflammatory in DMs via activation of the GR but proinflammatory via activation of RXFP1 and cAMP. In summary, we have shown that RLN targeting DMs may modulate proinflammatory cytokine secretion at the maternal-fetal interface and contribute to the localized inflammatory response associated with parturition in women.
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Vol. 85 • No. 4