Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF)/Scatter Factor secreted from sinusoidal endothelial cells and Kupffer cells in liver activates the c-Met tyrosine kinase receptor expressed on hepatocytes. Here we report yet another possible communication system through a different ligand and tyrosine kinase receptor in an opposite direction. We isolated and determined the primary structure of the entire coding region of rat flt-1 (fms-like tyrosine kinase), a receptor for Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). Using rat flt-1 cDNA as a probe we found that the flt-1 mRNA was expressed at very high levels in sinusoidal endothelial cells in normal rat liver, but was hardly detectable in hepatocytes. The transcripts of another VEGF receptor KDR/Flk-1 structurally related to Flt-1 was also expressed specifically in sinusoidal endothelial cells. On the other hand, VEGF mRNA was expressed weakly in hepatocytes, but not in the nonparenchymal cell fraction. Furthermore, in an in vitro culture system, VEGF demonstrated a remarkably specific growth-stimulatory activity as well as maintenance activity on the sinusoidal endothelial cells. These results suggest that hepatocytes regulate the proliferation and survival of the sinusoidal endothelial cells in liver in a paracrine manner. Therefore two reciprocal communication systems, VEGF-Flt receptor family and HGF-Met receptor, may exist in hepatic tissue.