Relaxin plays a major role in promoting the growth and softening of the cervix that occurs during the second half of pregnancy in the rat. There is limited evidence that prostaglandins play a role in cervical softening in mammalian species. Accordingly, this study was conducted to determine if prostaglandins mediate relaxin's effects on the rat cervix. To attain that objective, indomethacin was used to inhibit cyclooxygenase, the key enzyme in the conversion of arachidonic acid to prostaglandins. Twenty-six nonpregnant female rats were ovariectomized when they were 78 days old (day 1 of treatment). At ovariectomy (O), each rat was fitted with silicon tubing implants containing progesterone (P) and estrogen (E) in doses that provided blood levels similar to those during late pregnancy in rats. Rats were randomly assigned to three treatment groups. Group OPE controls (n = 8 rats) received 2 ml indomethacin vehicle (0.5% methyl cellulose, 0.025 Tween 80 in water) via gavage at 0900 h on days 8 and 9 and 0.5 ml relaxin vehicle (0.9% NaCl) sc at 6-h intervals from 1200 h on day 8 through 0600 h on day 10. Group OPER (n = 9 rats) was treated as group OPE except that 20 μg highly purified porcine relaxin was administered. Group OPERI (n = 9 rats) was treated as group OPER except that indomethacin was administered at a dose (20 mg/kg BW) that reduced cervical PGE2 levels by more than 90%. Between 0800 h and 1000 h on day 10, the cervices were removed, trimmed of fat, weighed, and placed in ice-cold Krebs-Ringer bicarbonate buffer, pH 7.5. Cervical extensibility (degree of softening) was determined within 4 h of tissue collection. Both the mean cervical wet weight and the mean cervical extensibility in the relaxin-treated group OPER rats were markedly greater (P < 0.01) than in the group OPE controls. Treatment with indomethacin did not diminish relaxin's effects on either cervical wet weight or cervical extensibility. In conclusion, this study provides evidence that relaxin's effects on cervical growth and softening in the rat are not mediated through prostaglandins.
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