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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Aug;295(2):E278-86. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00028.2008. Epub 2008 May 20.

Relaxin-3 stimulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.

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Dept. of Investigative Medicine, Division of Investigative Science, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Campus, Du Cane Road, London, UK.


The hypothalamus plays a key role in the regulation of both energy homeostasis and reproduction. Evidence suggests that relaxin-3, a recently discovered member of the insulin superfamily, is an orexigenic hypothalamic neuropeptide. Relaxin-3 is thought to act in the brain via the RXFP3 receptor, although the RXFP1 receptor may also play a role. Relaxin-3, RXFP3, and RXFP1 are present in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, an area with a well-characterized role in the regulation of energy balance that also modulates reproductive function by providing inputs to hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons. Other members of the relaxin family are known to play a role in the regulation of reproduction. However, the effects of relaxin-3 on reproductive function are unknown. We studied the role of relaxin-3 in the regulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. Intracerebroventricular (5 nmol) and intraparaventricular (540-1,620 pmol) administration of human relaxin-3 (H3) in adult male Wistar rats significantly increased plasma luteinizing hormone (LH) 30 min postinjection. This effect was blocked by pretreatment with a peripheral GnRH antagonist. Central administration of human relaxin-2 showed no significant effect on plasma LH. H3 dose-dependently stimulated the release of GnRH from hypothalamic explants and GT(1)-7 cells, which express RXFP1 and RXFP3, but did not influence LH or follicle-stimulating hormone release from pituitary fragments in vitro. We have demonstrated a novel role for relaxin-3 in the stimulation of the HPG axis, putatively via hypothalamic GnRH neurons. Relaxin-3 may act as a central signal linking nutritional status and reproductive function.

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