This study aimed to examine the influence of acute tissue hypo-oxygenation on the expression of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor genes. To this end male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to different hypoxic conditions such as 10% or 8% oxygen, 0.1% carbon monoxide and cobalt chloride (60 mg/kg) for 6 h and the abundance of flt-1, flt-4 and flk-1 mRNA in lungs and livers was determined by RNase protection assay. The relative proportions of flt-1, flt-4 and flk-1 were 10:2.5:1 and 10:10:2 in normoxic lungs and livers, respectively. It was found that 8% but not 10% oxygen increased flt-1 mRNA two- to three-fold in both organs, whilst flt-4 and flk-1 mRNA were not changed by acute inspiratory hypoxia. Carbon monoxide inhalation also increased flt-1 mRNA but not flt-4 or flk-1 mRNA in both organs. Subcutaneous cobalt administration increased flt-1 mRNA in the livers only, whilst flt-4 and flk-1 mRNA remained unchanged. These findings show that acute tissue hypo-oxygenation is a rather selective stimulus for flt-1 gene expression. The efficiency of the different manoeuvres applied to stimulate flt-1 gene expression is rather similar to the stimulation of erythropoietin gene expression. It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that the oxygen-dependent regulation of both genes at the cellular level has significant similarities.