The effect of relaxin on electrically evoked release of oxytocin from the posterior pituitary was examined by monitoring changes in intramammary pressure in the anaesthetized lactating rat.
The amount of oxytocin released by electrical stimulation of the neurohypophysis in vivo was dramatically reduced following i.v. injection of highly purified porcine relaxin (2·5–10 μg/rat). Relaxin inhibited oxytocin release in a dose-dependent manner and the onset of inhibition occurred within 6–10 min and lasted for 10–60 min. No effect on the sensitivity of the mammary gland to exogenous oxytocin was observed after relaxin treatment. During the period of inhibition, i.v. injection of the opioid antagonist naloxone chloride (1 mg/kg) completely and immediately restored electrically evoked oxytocin release. The neurohypophysis is known to contain endogenous opioid peptides, therefore the effect of relaxin on electrically stimulated release of oxytocin from the rat isolated neural lobe in vitro was examined. Relaxin (500–2000 ng/ml) failed to inhibit oxytocin release in vitro.
The results suggest that relaxin can inhibit the release of oxytocin from terminals in the neurohypophysis, but by an indirect mechanism. This action appears to be mediated through endogenous opioid peptides whose source is not clear. They are unlikely to be of neurohypophysial origin and may probably come from the adrenal medulla, since acute adrenalectomy negated the inhibitory effect of relaxin on oxytocin release.