Abstract Background Pericytes are capillary support cells that may play a role in regulating permeability by their contractile responses. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) may play a role in the increased permeability found in sepsis and other inflammatory conditions. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the role of VEGF in regulating pericyte contraction. Methods Rat microvascular lung pericytes were isolated according to previously described methods and cultured on collagen gel matrices. Cells were exposed to VEGF (10, 100, and 1000 pg/mL) for varying time periods (0, 10, 30, 60, and 120 minutes). The gels were released and their contractile responses digitally quantified. Results At all doses, VEGF induced initial pericyte relaxation (contraction 85% to 90% of controls; P < .001). This was followed-up by increased and sustained contraction (107% to 120% of controls; P < .01). Conclusions VEGF modifies the contractile response of microvascular lung pericytes. This mechanism may play a role in the increased permeability demonstrated in inflammatory states.