We investigated the effects of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) on cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression and prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) synthesis in human microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC-1). Treatment of HMEC-1 with VEGF resulted in a dose- and time-dependent up-regulation of COX-2 mRNA and protein levels. This up-regulation was accompanied by a 1.6-fold increase in PGE(2) synthesis. Pretreatment of HMEC-1 with a selective COX-2 inhibitor, NS-398, abolished VEGF-induced PGE(2) synthesis, suggesting specific up-regulation of COX-2 activity by VEGF in HMEC-1. Transient transfection assays using deletion mutants of the human COX-2 promoter fused to the luciferase reporter gene indicated critical requirement of a regulatory region spanning -828/-123 bp for VEGF induction of COX-2 promoter activity in HMEC-1. Site-directed mutation analysis demonstrated that a GATA cis-acting element at -685/-680 bp was essential for VEGF- induced COX-2 promoter activity in HMEC-1. These observations are of particular importance given the recent demonstrations of critical requirement of COX-2 isoenzyme for tumor growth and angiogenesis.