Vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) belongs to a family of heparin binding growth factors that include VEGF-B, VEGF-C, VEGF-D, and placental-like growth factor (PLGF). First discovered for its ability to regulate vascular endothelial cell permeability, VEGF is a well-known angiogenic factor that is important for vascular development and maintenance in all mammalian organs. The development of molecular tools and pharmacological agents to selectively inhibit VEGF function and block angiogenesis and/or vascular permeability has led to great promise in the treatment of various cancers, macular degeneration, and wound healing. However, VEGF is also important in animals for the regulation of angiogenesis, stem cell and monocyte/macrophage recruitment, maintenance of kidney and lung barrier functions and neuroprotection. In addition to its role in regulating endothelial cell proliferation, migration, and cell survival, VEGF receptors are also located on many non-endothelial cells and act through autrocrine pathways to regulate cell survival and function. The following review will discuss the role of VEGF in physiological angiogenesis as well as its role in non-angiogenic processes that take place in adult organs.
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