The majority of severe visual loss in the United States results from complications associated with retinal neovascularization in patients with ischemic ocular diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, and retinopathy of prematurity. Intraocular expression of the angiogenic protein vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is closely correlated with neovascularization in these human disorders and with ischemia-induced retinal neovascularization in mice. In this study, we evaluated whether in vivo inhibition of VEGF action could suppress retinal neovascularization in a murine model of ischemic retinopathy. VEGF-neutralizing chimeric proteins were constructed by joining the extracellular domain of either human (Flt) or mouse (Flk) high-affinity VEGF receptors with IgG. Control chimeric proteins that did not bind VEGF were also used. VEGF-receptor chimeric proteins eliminated in vitro retinal endothelial cell growth stimulation by either VEGF (P < 0.006) or hypoxic conditioned medium (P < 0.005) without affecting growth under nonstimulated conditions. Control proteins had no effect. To assess in vivo response, animals with bilateral retinal ischemia received intravitreal injections of VEGF antagonist in one eye and control protein in the contralateral eye. Retinal neovascularization was quantitated histologically by a masked protocol. Retinal neovascularization in the eye injected with human Flt or murine Flk chimeric protein was reduced in 100% (25/25; P < 0.0001) and 95% (21/22; P < 0.0001) 0.0001) of animals, respectively, compared to the control treated eye. This response was evident after only a single intravitreal injection and was dose dependent with suppression of neovascularization noted after total delivery of 200 ng of protein (P < 0.002). Reduction of histologically evident neovascular nuclei per 6-microns section averaged 47% +/- 4% (P < 0.001) and 37% +/- 2% (P < 0.001) for Flt and Flk chimeric proteins with maximal inhibitory effects of 77% and 66%, respectively. No retinal toxicity was observed by light microscopy. These data demonstrate VEGF's causal role in retinal angiogenesis and prove the potential of VEGF inhibition as a specific therapy for ischemic retinal disease.