Our laboratory has previously shown that apelin is mitogenic for endothelial cells. We have postulated that apelin represents an angiogenic factor secreted by tumour cells in order to promote the formation of new vessels necessary for tumour growth. We first demonstrate that apelin and its receptor are not expressed by the mouse TS/A mammary carcinoma cells. We therefore established clones of this tumoral cell type stably overexpressing the apelin cDNA (TS/A-apelin clones). Comparison of the in vitro proliferation rates between TS/A-mock and TS/A-apelin cells did not reveal any difference and confirmed the lack of receptor expression by tumour cells. On the other hand, apelin overexpression clearly increased the in vivo tumour growth and this increase was associated with an earlier onset of tumour development. In tumours derived from TS/A-apelin clones, the expression of the endothelial marker CD31 was increased and revealed the formation of large intratumoral vessels lined with CD31 positive cells. These data suggest that apelin behaves as a potent activator of tumour neoangiogenesis by a paracrine effect on host vessels. The pathological relevance of this finding is demonstrated by hypoxia-induced upregulation of apelin gene and its overexpression in one-third of human tumours.