Functional implications of the utero-placental relaxin (RLN) system in the dog throughout pregnancy and at term
Relaxin (RLN) is a key hormone of pregnancy in mammals best known for its involvement in connective tissue remodeling. In the domestic dog, placental RLN is the only known endocrine marker of pregnancy. However, knowledge is sparse regarding the spatio-temporal expression of RLN and its receptors (RXFP1 and RXFP2) in the canine uterus and placenta. Here, their expression was investigated in the pre-implantation uterus and utero-placental compartments (UtPl) at selected time points during gestation: post-implantation, mid-gestation, and at normal and antigestagen-induced luteolysis/abortion. Immunohistochemistry with newly generated, canine-specific antisera, in situ hybridization and semi-quantitative PCR were applied. In compartmentalization studies, placental and endometrial RLN increased continuously toward prepartum. The placental RXFP1 was time-related and highest during post-implantation and decreased together with RXFP2 at prepartum luteolysis. The endometrial levels of both receptors did not vary greatly, but myometrial RXFP2 decreased from mid-gestation to prepartum luteolysis. Antigestagen treatment resulted in suppression of RLN in UtPl and decreased RXFP1 and RXFP2 in the uterus. The placental RLN was localized mainly in the cytotrophoblast. Additionally, RXFP1 stained strongly in placental endothelial cells while RXFP2 was found mainly in maternal decidual cells. Uterine staining for all targets was found in epithelial cellular constituents and in myometrium. Finally, besides its endocrine functions, RLN seems to be involved in auto-/paracrine regulation of utero-placental functions in dogs in a time-dependent manner. New insights into feto-maternal communication was provided, in particular regarding the localization of RXFP2 in the maternal decidual cells, implying functional roles of RLN during the decidualization process.
Source: The journal of Reproductive Science