The aims of the present review are to summarize and to discuss the role of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) and the expression and functions of vasoactive substances in chronic hypoxemia with specific focus in the liver and the carotid body. Vascular remodelling and vasoactive substances play important functional roles in the adaptive response to chronic hypoxemia for the maintenance of oxygen homeostasis in all systems in man. HIF-1 regulates the gene expression of vasoactive substances such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), endothelin-1 (ET-1) and enzymes for producing nitric oxide (NO). Recent studies have shown the effect of chronic hypoxia on the expression of HIF-1alpha and HIF-1-target genes in multiple organ systems including the liver and the carotid body. Results are consistent with increases in the hematocrit levels, pulmonary arterial pressure and right heart mass developed during chronic hypoxia. In addition, the carotid body is also hyperplastic and increases in organ mass with increased levels of HIF-1alpha and the vasoactive substances. These molecules increase the mitotic activity and modulate the excitability of the chemoreceptor. Intriguingly, the liver morphology, serum alanine aminotransferase and 8-isoprostane levels are within normal range in chronic hypoxia, suggesting the absence of significant oxidative stress. Yet, the HIF-1alpha is upregulated and the mRNA and protein levels of VEGF, ET-1, inducible and constitutive NO synthases are elevated in the liver during chronic hypoxia. In conclusion, the adaptive response to long-term hypoxemia involves compensatory mechanisms mediated by expressing significant levels of HIF-1alpha and vasoactive substances regulated by HIF-1.