To shed light on the role of relaxin in cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) in adults and children, the authors investigated endothelial cell (EC) expression of relaxin 1, 2, and 3; vascular endothelial growth factor receptor–1 and –2 (VEGFR-1 and -2); Ki-67; vascular geometry; and hemorrhage, as well as the clinical presentation of 32 patients with surgically resected lesions.
Paraffin-embedded sections of 32 CCMs and 5 normal nonvascular lesion control (NVLC) brain tissue samples were immunohistochemically stained with antibodies to relaxin 1, 2, and 3; angiogenesis growth factor receptors Flt-1 (VEGFR-1) and Flk-1 (VEGFR-2); and proliferation marker Ki-67. For morphometric analysis, Elastica van Gieson stain was used, and for hemorrhage demonstration, Turnbull stain was used. Data from the pediatric and adult CCMs were compared with each other and with those obtained from the NVLCs. Statistical analyses were performed with Fisher’s exact test, the chi-square test, the phi correlation coefficient, and the Student t-test. A p value < 0.05 was considered significant.
Pediatric and adult cavernoma vessels did not significantly differ in diameter. Hemorrhage was observed in CCMs but not in NVLC samples (p < 0.05). There was no difference in expression of Ki-67, VEGFR-1 and -2, and relaxin 1, 2, and 3 in the ECs of pediatric and adult CCMs. The ECs of CCMs were largely negative for relaxin 3 compared to NVLCs (p < 0.05), whereas CCMs, compared to control brain tissue samples, more frequently expressed Flt-1 and relaxin 2 (p < 0.05). Ki-67 was not expressed in the NVLCs, but the difference was not statistically significant. Relaxin 1 and 2 expression and increased expression of VEGFR-1 were associated with a supra- versus infratentorial location (p < 0.05).
Relaxin 1 and 2 and VEGFR-1 play a role in supratentorial cavernomas. Relaxin 3 may play a physiological role in normal brain vasculature. Relaxin 1 and 3 are also found in normal cerebral vasculature. Relaxin 1, 2, and 3 are associated with increased VEGFR-1 expression.