Activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) produce cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) protein to induce vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) production that participates in angiogenesis in injured liver. To reveal the unknown regulatory mechanism, we used hypoxic atmosphere mimicking injured-tissue microenvironment to induce VEGF expression in a rat hepatic stellate cell line (T6-HSCs). The present study showed that hypoxia up-regulated the protein levels of COX-2 and hypoxia-inducible factor-1-alpha (HIF-1alpha), but rapidly effected degradation of von Hippel-Lindau (vHL) protein. As a result, expression of VEGF in HSCs was markedly elevated; and pretreatment with COX-2 inhibitors (nimesulide or indomethacin) could significantly ameliorate the angiogenic event. Collectively, hypoxic HSCs increased accumulation of HIF-1alpha protein and induced VEGF expression in a time-dependent manner. Inhibition of COX-2 activities would prevent vHL protein from degradation and suppress HIF-1alpha up-regulation. Thus, vHL/HIF-1alpha has a regulatory role in COX-2-mediated VEGF production in hypoxic stellate cells in injured liver.