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Neurosci Lett. 2006 Jan 30;393(2-3):160-4. Epub 2005 Oct 17.

Relaxin-induced reduction of infarct size in male rats receiving MCAO is dependent on nitric oxide synthesis and not estrogenic mechanisms.

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Department of Biology, Acadia University, Wolfville, NS, Canada B4P 2R6.


Relaxins are members of the insulin peptide superfamily. Previous evidence has shown that relaxin pretreatment reduces cortical infarct size in anesthetized, male rats receiving permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). Therefore, the current study was designed to determine if estrogenic mechanisms or nitric oxide production are involved in mediating this relaxin-induced neuroprotection. In separate groups of rats (n=4-6), the following drugs were injected directly into the cortex 30 min prior to MCAO: (a) relaxin, (b) relaxin and estrogen, and (c) relaxin and an estrogen receptor antagonist (ICI 182,780). To investigate the involvement of nitric oxide, relaxin or relaxin and an inhibitor of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (L-NIO) were injected i.v. 30 min prior to MCAO. Saline-treated rats (both intracortical (i.c.) and intravenously (i.v.)) served as controls. Brains were harvested 4h post stroke, coronally sectioned using a brain matrix and stained using 2,3,5-triphenoltetrazolium chloride (TTC). Digital photographs were taken of brain sections and the ratio comparing the area of the infarct to the area of the ipsilateral hemisphere was calculated. Mean ratios were compared using ANOVA and Tukey's test. Intracortical and intravenous relaxin pretreatment significantly reduced the infarct area in the cortex by 33.7 and 58.6%, respectively compared to saline-treated controls. This effect was not dependent on an interaction with estrogenic receptors as co-injection of relaxin and ICI 182,780 did not reverse this effect. However, inhibition of nitric oxide synthase significantly reduced the relaxin-mediated neuroprotection suggesting that relaxin may induce the endothelin-NOS cascade in cerebral vasculature causing vasodilation and improved perfusion of neural tissue.

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