Angiogenic factors may play a role in the biology of neuroblastoma, a well vascularised tumour, which frequently spreads haematogenously. Therefore, we analysed expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in six human neuroblastoma cell lines and five primary neuroblastomas. High VEGF levels (1-3 ng/10(6) cells/day) were found in the supernatant of all cell lines examined (SK-N-LO, SK-N-SH, LS, SH-SY5Y, IMR-32, Kelly). VEGF peptide was also detected in tissue homogenates from four of five primary tumours. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) revealed that VEGF165 is the major isoform produced by neuroblastomas. In addition, all cell lines and primary tumours expressed the mitogenic VEGF receptor FLK-1, whilst the non-mitogenic receptor FLT-1 was less frequently positive, suggesting that the tyrosine kinase FLK-1 is involved in malignant transformation of neuroblastoma cells. However, neutralising antibodies to VEGF did not inhibit growth of neuroblastoma cell lines, which argues against a role of VEGF as an autocrine growth factor, at least for cell lines in vitro. We conclude that neuroblastoma cells produce VEGF, which may contribute to tumour vascularisation, growth and invasion.