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J Androl. 2012 May-Jun;33(3):474-82. doi: 10.2164/jandrol.110.012625. Epub 2011 Sep 8.

Effect of relaxin on human sperm functions.

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University of Padova, Department of Histology, Microbiology and Medical Biotechnologies, Section of Clinical Pathology and Center for Male Gamete Cryopreservation, Padova, Italy.


Relaxin is a circulating hormone with functions in pregnancy, parturition, and other aspects of female reproduction. It is also secreted from the prostate gland into the seminal fluid; however, the role of relaxin in male reproduction is debated. Studies conducted in the past have suggested possible actions on human spermatozoa, but the data were contrasting. Here, we show that the relaxin receptor RXFP1 (Relaxin Family Peptide Receptor 1) is expressed in human spermatozoa, and it mainly localizes in the astrodome. In vitro studies on human sperm demonstrated that this hormone attenuates the natural decline in sperm motility and maintains higher mitochondrial activity and lower apoptosis level. Furthermore, relaxin induced an increase in sperm hyperactivation, intracellular calcium and cAMP, and acrosome reaction. These effects were abolished by the use of the specific anti-RXFP1 antibody. Relaxin concentrations were low in the blood (x ± SD, 0.16 ± 0.03 nM) and very high in the seminal plasma (x ± SD, 10.3 ± 4.0 nM), confirming its secretion mainly by the prostate. Taken together, these data demonstrate that relaxin influences positively many sperm functions linked to fertilizing ability, and it preserves sperm functionality, with possible practical value in assisted reproduction techniques.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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