The effects of different concentrations of relaxin (RLX) on growth and differentiation of a human breast-cancer cell line (MCF-7) have been studied after various times of exposure. The cells were cultured for 4 and 7 days in the absence (control) and the presence of highly purified porcine RLX at concentrations of 10−9 M and 10−6 M. (3H)-Thymidine uptake assay was used to evaluate cell proliferation. Electron microscopy and immunocy-tochemistry for the cell-cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin were carried out to evaluate cell differentiation. Analysis of DNA changes associated with apoptosis was performed to clarify whether RLX induces active cell death in the MCF-7 cells. The findings obtained show that RLX, when applied at micromolar concentrations, or even at nanomolar concentrations for long exposure times, suppresses proliferation, stimulates differentiation, and enhances expression of the surface molecule E-cadherin. Growth inhibition is not accompanied by apoptosis. The results of this study show that RLX can be recognized as a novel agent active in influencing growth and differentiation of MCF-7 breast-cancer cells. When applied at appropriate concentrations and exposure times, the peptide has a growth-inhibitory action, thus reversing the growth-stimulatory effect exerted at low concentrations for short exposure times, and promotes differentiation and cell-cell adhesion. These last-mentioned properties might result in a decrease in invasiveness of breast adenocarcinoma cells. © Wiley-Liss, Inc.