1. Vascular permeability factor (VPF) is a protein secreted from a variety of human and rodent tumour and normal tissue cells. In addition to mediating angiogenesis and endothelial cell growth, VPF has been reported to be a potent mediator of increased microvascular permeability in vivo. In this study we have investigated these permeability changes in vivo using a quantitative model of local plasma leakage in rabbit skin. 2. Our results reveal that VPF is a potent mediator of plasma leakage which, in the rabbit, depends on a synergistic interaction with arteriolar vasodilators such as prostaglandin E2. The requirement for an exogenous vasodilator further suggest that VPF does not act to increase blood flow in this model. 3. We show that this response does not require the presence of circulating neutrophils and in this respect is similar to direct-action permeability increasing mediators such as histamine and bradykinin. Similarly, the time course of plasma leakage induced by VPF resembles that of direct-action mediators, where the greatest response occurs over the first 30 min. In contrast, the neutrophil-dependent plasma leakage induced by the active component of zymosan-activated plasma, C5ades arg, was maintained at a similar level over 2.5 h. 4. Further, using mediator antagonists and enzyme inhibitors we demonstrate that the mechanism of action of VPF is not via activation of histamine, kinin, or platelet-activating factor pathways.