Vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs) and their receptors (VEGFRs) are important regulators of blood and lymphatic vessel growth and vascular permeability. Both blood and lymphatic vessels of the upper respiratory tract play important roles in pathological conditions, such as infections and tumors. Here we have studied the expression of VEGF-C and its receptor VEGFR-3 in the upper respiratory system by Northern blot analysis and immunohistochemistry of human tissues, and in situ mRNA hybridization of developing mouse embryos and beta-galactosidase staining of mouse embryos having a LacZ marker gene in the VEGFR-3 gene locus. The results demonstrate expression of VEGF-C and VEGFR-3 in the developing and adult nasal respiratory epithelium and in the nasal vascular plexus, respectively. Unlike in most other tissues, in the nasal mucosa VEGFR-3 is expressed in both blood and lymphatic vessels. Expression of VEGF-C was also detected in nasal and nasopharyngeal tumor islands, which were surrounded by VEGFR-3-positive angiogenic blood vessels. These results suggest that VEGF-C and VEGFR-3 have a role in the development of the nasal submucosal vascular plexus and in its normal function and that they are associated with angiogenesis in nasal and nasopharyngeal tumors.