Vasculotropin (VAS), also called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) or vascular permeability factor, is a secreted growth factor whose target cell specificity has been reported as restricted to vascular endothelium. Its effects are mediated by at least two distinct membrane-spanning tyrosine kinase receptors, KDR and flt-1; the expression of which also seems restricted to vascular endothelium. We describe here that cultured human retinal pigment epithelial (HRPE) cells express both KDR and flt-1 receptors, bind VAS/VEGF on two high affinity sites (apparent Kd of 9 and 210 pM corresponding to 940 and 18,800 sites per cell) and proliferate or migrate upon recombinant VAS/VEGF addition. HRPE cells also express the mRNA corresponding to the 121 and 165 amino acid forms of VAS/VEGF. HRPE cells release in their own culture medium and store in their extracellular matrix self-mitogenic and chemoattractant factors indistinguishable from 121 and 165 VAS/VEGF isoforms. The autocrine role of VAS/VEGF was confirmed by the inhibition of these bioactivities by neutralizing specific anti-VAS/VEGF antibodies.