We studied the expression of the angiogenic factor vascular permeability factor) (VPF, also called vascular endothelial growth factor), in human melanoma cells in vitro and in vivo. Melanoma lines that develop tumors with a low metastatic potential in nude mice were found to have low expression levels of VPF in vitro, and the VPF expression levels in melanoma lines that yield highly metastatic xenografts were high. However, in vivo the correlation between VPF mRNA levels and the frequency of metastasis was lost; in all xenografts equally high levels of VPF mRNA were found, independent of the parental cell line. Hence, in vivo VPF gene expression was upregulated in the low expressing lines. The external factor responsible for this induction may be hypoxia, given that we found that low oxygen tension caused a (reversible) increase in the VPF mRNA levels in otherwise low expressing melanoma lines in vitro. A melanoma line with an inducible VPF expression was engineered into a line with a constitutive VPF expression. In the xenografts from this line a change in the vascular architecture was seen, indicating that the pattern or the level of VPF expression is important for tumor angiogenesis in melanoma xenografts.