Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is an endothelial-specific growth factor that promotes endothelial cell proliferation, differentiation and survival, mediates endothelium-dependent vasodilatation, induces microvascular hyperpermeability and participates in interstitial matrix remodeling. In the kidney, VEGF expression is most prominent in glomerular podocytes and in tubular epithelial cells, while VEGF receptors are mainly found on preglomerular, glomerular, and peritubular endothelial cells. The role of VEGF in normal renal physiology is essentially unknown. The absence of prominent effects of VEGF blockade in normal experimental animals suggests a limited function during homeostasis, although a role in the formation and maintenance of glomerular capillary endothelial fenestrations has been suggested. VEGF and its receptors are up-regulated in experimental animals and humans with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Inhibition of VEGF has beneficial effects on diabetes-induced functional and structural alterations, suggesting a deleterious role for VEGF in the pathophysiology of diabetic nephropathy. VEGF is required for glomerular and tubular hypertrophy and proliferation in response to nephron reduction, and loss of VEGF is associated with the development of glomerulosclerosis and tubulointerstitial fibrosis in the remnant kidney. No firm conclusions on the role of VEGF in minimal change or membranous glomerulonephritis can be drawn. VEGF may be an essential mediator of glomerular recovery in proliferative glomerulonephritis. Glomerular and tubulointerstitial repair in thrombotic microangiopathy and cyclosporin nephrotoxicity may also be VEGF-dependent. In conclusion, VEGF is required for growth and proliferation of glomerular and peritubular endothelial cells. While deleterious in some, it may contribute to recovery in other forms of renal diseases.