Abstract Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a highly specific mitogen for vascular endothelial cells and an angiogenic factor that is structurally related to platelet derived growth factor (PDGF). It is also known as the vascular permeability factor (VPF) because it efficiently potentiates the permeabilization of blood vessels. Five types of VEGF mRNA encoding VEGF species which differ in their molecular mass and in their biological properties are transcribed from a single gene as a result of alternative splicing. VEGFs are produced and secreted by several normal cell types including smooth muscle, luteal and adrenal cortex cells. VEGFs are also produced by different tumorigenic cells, and appear to play a major role in tumour angiogenesis. Antibodies directed against VEGF can inhibit the growth of a variety of VEGF producing tumours. Of the various VEGF species, the best characterized is the 165 amino acid long form (VEGF 165). VEGF 165 is a heparin binding growth factor, and its interaction with VEGF receptors on the cell surface of vascular endothelial cells depends on the presence of heparin-like molecules. Several cell types which do not proliferate in response to VEGF such as bovine corneal endothelial cells, HeLa cells and human melanoma cells also express cell surface VEGF receptors, but the function of the VEGF receptors in these cells is unclear. Recently, the tyrosine-kinase receptors encoded by the flt and KDR flk-1 genes were found to function as VEGF 165 receptors.