Systemic relaxin in pregnant pony mares grazed on endophyte-infected fescue: Effects of fluphenazine treatment

P. L. Ryan, K. Bennett-Wimbush, W. E. Vaala, C. A. Bagnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Tall fescue is one of the most widely grown forage grasses for horses in the United States. However, it is frequently infected with the endophyte Neotyphodium coenophialum which produces ergot alkaloids that cause severe adverse effects in the pregnant mare. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of fescue toxicosis and fluphenazine on circulating relaxin in pregnant pony mares and evaluate the usefulness of relaxin as a monitor of treatment efficacy. Twelve mares were maintained on endophyte-infected tall fescue pasture. Group TRT (n = 6), received 25 mg of fluphenazine decanoate (im) on Day 320 of gestation while Group UTRT served as untreated controls. Daily blood samples were collected from Day 300 of gestation until Day 3 post partum and analyzed for plasma relaxin concentrations using a homologous equine radioimmunoassay. Mean gestation lengths were 330 ± 0.7 and 336.5 ± 3.2 days for TRT and UTRT mares, respectively (P = 0.07). Mean plasma relaxin concentrations in both groups of mares during the week before treatment (Day 313 to 319) were not different (UTRT, 53.4 ± 11.3 ng/mL; TRT, 61.4 ± 9.3 ng/mL). In the week after treatment (Day 320 to 326), mean plasma relaxin tended to be higher (P = 0.1) in TRT mares (66.7 ± 6.2 ng/mL) when compared with UTRT mares (49.6 ± 6.6 ng/mL), representing a 17.1 ng/mL difference in circulating relaxin between the two groups. Systemic relaxin during the last week before delivery (days relative to parturition) for UTRT and TRT mares was 45.7 ± 6.7 and 64.7 ± 6.4 ng/mL (P = 0.06), respectively. At Day -8 and Day -5 relative to parturition, systemic relaxin in TRT mares was significantly higher (P < 0.05) than in UTRT mares. Three of the six UTRT mares and one TRT mare showed clinical symptoms of fescue toxicosis. In the week before delivery, circulating relaxin in mares with problematic pregnancies (39.9 ± 7.8 ng/mL) was significantly lower than concentrations measured in mares with normal pregnancies (63.4 ± 5.4 ng/mL; P = 0.03). Clinical observations suggest that a one-time injection with fluphenazine improved pregnancy outcome by reducing the adverse effects of fescue toxicosis concomitant with a stabilization of plasma relaxin concentrations. These data support the hypothesis that systemic relaxin may be a useful biochemical means of monitoring placental function and treatment efficacy in the mare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-483
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Small Animals
  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Equine


  • Fescue toxicosis
  • Fluphenazine treatment
  • Placenta
  • Pregnant mare
  • Relaxin


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