Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) stimulates angiogenesis by activating VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR-2). The role of its homolog, placental growth factor (PlGF), remains unknown. Both VEGF and PlGF bind to VEGF receptor-1 (VEGFR-1), but it is unknown whether VEGFR-1, which exists as a soluble or a membrane-bound type, is an inert decoy or a signaling receptor for PlGF during angiogenesis. Here, we report that embryonic angiogenesis in mice was not affected by deficiency of PlGF (Pgf-/-). VEGF-B, another ligand of VEGFR-1, did not rescue development in Pgf-/- mice. However, loss of PlGF impaired angiogenesis, plasma extravasation and collateral growth during ischemia, inflammation, wound healing and cancer. Transplantation of wild-type bone marrow rescued the impaired angiogenesis and collateral growth in Pgf-/- mice, indicating that PlGF might have contributed to vessel growth in the adult by mobilizing bone-marrow-derived cells. The synergism between PlGF and VEGF was specific, as PlGF deficiency impaired the response to VEGF, but not to bFGF or histamine. VEGFR-1 was activated by PlGF, given that anti-VEGFR-1 antibodies and a Src-kinase inhibitor blocked the endothelial response to PlGF or VEGF/PlGF. By upregulating PlGF and the signaling subtype of VEGFR-1, endothelial cells amplify their responsiveness to VEGF during the 'angiogenic switch' in many pathological disorders.