The vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family has recently been expanded by the isolation of two additional growth factors, VEGF-B and VEGF-C. Here we compare the regulation of steady-state levels of VEGF, VEGF-B and VEGF-C mRNAs in cultured cells by a variety of stimuli implicated in angiogenesis and endothelial cell physiology. Hypoxia, Ras oncoprotein and mutant p53 tumor suppressor, which are potent inducers of VEGF mRNA did not increase VEGF-B or VEGF-C mRNA levels. Serum and its component growth factors, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF) as well as transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) and the tumor promoter phorbol myristate 12,13-acetate (PMA) stimulated VEGF-C, but not VEGF-B mRNA expression. Interestingly, these growth factors and hypoxia simultaneously downregulated the mRNA of another endothelial cell specific ligand, angiopoietin-1. Serum induction of VEGF-C mRNA occurred independently of protein synthesis; with an increase of the mRNA half-life from 3.5 h to 5.5-6 h, whereas VEGF-B mRNA was very stable (T 1/2>8 h). Our results reveal that the three VEGF genes are regulated in a strikingly different manner, suggesting that they serve distinct, although perhaps overlapping functions in vivo.