We tested the potential role of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and of fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) in the angiogenesis associated with experimental liver fibrogenesis induced by common bile duct ligation in Sprague-Dawley rats. In normal rats, VEGF and FGF-2 immunoreactivities were restricted to less than 3% of hepatocytes. One week after bile duct ligation, hypoxia was demonstrated by the immunodetection of pimonidazole adducts unevenly distributed throughout the lobule. After 2 weeks, hypoxia and VEGF expression were detected in >95% of hepatocytes and coexisted with an increase in periportal vascular endothelial cell proliferation, as ascertained by Ki67 immunolabeling. Subsequently, at 3 weeks the density of von Willebrand-labeled vascular section in fibrotic areas significantly increased. Semiquantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction showed that VEGF(120) and VEGF(164) transcripts, that correspond to secreted isoforms, increased within 2 weeks, while VEGF(188) transcripts remained unchanged. FGF-2 mainly consisting of a 22-kd isoform, according to Western blot, was identified by immunohistochemistry in 49% and 100% of hepatocytes at 3 and 7 weeks, respectively. Our data provide evidence that in biliary-type liver fibrogenesis, angiogenesis is stimulated primarily by VEGF in response to hepatocellular hypoxia while FGF-2 likely contributes to the maintenance of angiogenesis at later stages.