Characterizing relaxin receptor expression and exploring relaxin's effect on tissue remodeling/fibrosis in the human bladder


Advocate Children's Hospital


BACKGROUND: Relaxin is an endogenous protein that has been shown to have antifibrotic properties in various organ systems. There has been no characterization of relaxin's role in the human bladder. Our objective was to characterize relaxin receptor expression in the human bladder and assess relaxin's effect on tissue remodeling/fibrosis pathways in bladder smooth muscle cells.

METHODS: Relaxin family peptide receptor 1 (RXFP1) and RXFP2 expression was assessed using quantitative reverse transcriptase-PCR (qRT-PCR) and immunohistochemistry (IHC) on primary bladder tissue. Primary human smooth muscle bladder cells were cultured and stimulated with various concentrations of relaxin. Western blot, qRTPCR, ELISA, and zymogram assays were used to analyze fibrosis/tissue remodeling pathway proteins.

RESULTS: There was universal mRNA transcript detection and protein expression of relaxin receptors in primary bladder specimens. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated RXFP1 and RXFP2 localizing to both urothelial and smooth muscle cell layers of the bladder. 24 h of in vitro relaxin stimulation did not affect mRNA expression of selected proteins in human bladder smooth muscle cells. However, 48 h of in vitro relaxin stimulation resulted in upregulation of active (p = 0.004) and latent (p = 0.027) MMP-2 in cell lysate, and upregulation of active MMP-2 in supernatant (p = 0.04). There was a dose dependent relationship with increasing expression of MMP-2 with increasing relaxin concentration. Relaxin stimulation resulted in decreased levels of active and total TGF-β1 in supernatant and extracellular matrix (p < 0.005 with 100 ng/mL relaxin stimulation).

CONCLUSIONS: In the human bladder, relaxin receptors are expressed at the dome and trigone and localize to the urothelium and smooth muscle cell layers. Stimulation of human bladder SMCs with relaxin in vitro affects expression of MMP-2 and TGF-β1.

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