Vascular permeability factor/vascular endothelial growth factor: a multifunctional angiogenic cytokine

EXS. 1997;79:233-69. doi: 10.1007/978-3-0348-9006-9_10.


VPF/VEGF is a multifunctional cytokine that contributes to angiogenesis by both direct and indirect mechanisms. On the one hand, VPF/VEGF stimulates the endothelial cells lining nearby microvessels to proliferate, to migrate and to alter their pattern of gene expression. On the other hand, VPF/VEGF renders these same microvascular endothelial cells hyperpermeable so that they spill plasma proteins into the extravascular space, leading to profound alterations in the extracellular matrix that favor angiogenesis. These same principles apply in tumors, in several examples of non-neoplastic pathology, and in physiological processes that involve angiogenesis and new stroma generation. In all of these examples, microvascular hyperpermeability and the introduction of a provisional, plasma-derived matrix precede and accompany the onset of endothelial cell division and new blood vessel formation. It would seem, therefore, that tumors have made use of fundamental pathways that developed in multicellular organisms for purposes of tissue defense, renewal and repair. VPF/VEGF, therefore, has taught us something new about angiogenesis; namely, that vascular hyperpermeability and consequent plasma protein extravasation are important--perhaps essential--elements in its generation. However, this finding raises a paradox. While VPF/VEGF induces vascular hyperpermeability, other potent angiogenic factors apparently do not, at least in sub-toxic concentrations that are more than sufficient to induce angiogenesis (Connolly et al., 1989a). Nonetheless, wherever angiogenesis has been studied, the newly generated vessels have been found to be hyperpermeable. How, therefore, do angiogenic factors other than VPF/VEGF lead to the formation of new and leaky blood vessels? We do not as yet have a complete answer to this question. One possibility is that at least some angiogenic factors mediate their effect by inducing or stimulating VPF/VEGF expression. In fact, there are already clear example of this. A number of putative angiogenic factors including small molecules (e.g. prostaglandins, adenosine) as well as many cytokines (e.g. TGF-alpha, bFGF, TGF-beta, TNF-alpha, KGF, PDGF) have all been shown to upregulate VPF/VEGF expression. Further studies that elucidate the crosstalk among various angiogenic factors are likely to contribute significantly to a better understanding of the mechanisms by which new blood vessels are formed in health and in disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / biosynthesis
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / pharmacology
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Hormones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lymphokines / biosynthesis
  • Lymphokines / pharmacology
  • Lymphokines / physiology*
  • Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic*
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic*
  • Oncogenes
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / physiology*
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / physiology*
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors


  • Cytokines
  • Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Hormones
  • Lymphokines
  • Receptors, Growth Factor
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor