Endothelial cells acquire distinctive molecular signatures in their transformation to an angiogenic phenotype that are indicative of changes in cell behavior and function. Using a rat mesentery model of inflammation-induced angiogenesis and a panel of known endothelial markers (CD31, VE-cadherin, BS-I lectin), we identified a capillary sprout-specific endothelial phenotype that is characterized by the marked down-regulation of CD36, a receptor for the anti-angiogenic molecule thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1). TSP-1/CD36 interactions were shown to regulate angiogenesis in this model as application of TSP-1 inhibited angiogenesis and blockade of both TSP-1 and CD36 accelerated angiogenesis. Vascular endothelial growth factor, which was up-regulated in the in vivo model, elicited a dose- and time-dependent down-regulation of CD36 (ie, to a CD36 low phenotype) in cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells that had been conditioned to a CD36 low phenotype with VEGF were found to be refractory to anti-proliferative TSP-1 signaling via a CD36-dependent mechanism. The loss of exposure to wall shear stress, which occurs in vivo when previously quiescent cells begin to sprout, also generated a CD36 low phenotype. Ultimately, our results identified the regulation of endothelial cell CD36 expression as a novel mechanism through which VEGF stimulates and sustains capillary sprouting in the presence of TSP-1. Additionally, CD36 was shown to function as a potential molecular linkage through which wall shear stress may regulate both microvessel sprouting and quiescence.