Role of vascular endothelial growth factor in diabetic vascular complications

Kidney Int Suppl. 2000 Sep;77:S113-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1755.2000.07718.x.


Background: Much of the morbidity and mortality associated with diabetes mellitus predominantly reflects its deleterious effects on microcirculation and macrocirculation. During the past few years, rapid advancement has been made in our understanding of the mechanisms and molecules involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic microvasculopathy. This is particularly true with regard to retinal vascular disease and the role of the angiogenesis- and vasopermeability-inducing molecule, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

Methods: Biochemical studies in many relevant cell types have been performed. Effects of VEGF action and inhibition have been evaluated in animals. Interventions that block the biochemical pathways initiated by VEGF have been tested both in culture and in animals. Human clinical trials have begun.

Results: VEGF induces vascular endothelial cell proliferation, migration and vasopermeability in many cells and tissues. In vivo, VEGF has been identified as a primary initiator of proliferative diabetic retinopathy, and as a potential mediator of nonproliferative retinopathy. In addition, VEGF has been implicated in the development of neuropathy and nephropathy in the patient with diabetes. In patients with diabetes and coronary artery or peripheral vascular disease, VEGF may induce development of cardiac and limb vascular collateralization, respectively. Many biochemical processes mediating these actions have now been elucidated.

Conclusions: VEGF appears to play a central role in mediating diabetic vasculopathy in many organs. Improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying these processes has permitted development of novel therapeutic interventions, several of which are now in human clinical trials. These scientific advances and various implications for the future care of vasculopathy associated with diabetes will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / etiology*
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / therapy
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / etiology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / etiology
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lymphokines / physiology*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors


  • Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Lymphokines
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors