Both advanced glycation end products and vascular endothelial growth factor are believed to play a role in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy. It is known that vascular endothelial growth factor causes retinal neovascularization and a breakdown of the blood-retinal barrier; how advanced glycation end products affect the retina, however, remains largely unclear. The substance-Ne-(carboxymethyl)lysine is a major immunologic epitope, i.e. a dominant advanced glycation end products antigen. We generated an anti-Ne-(carboxymethyl)lysine antibody to investigate the relationship between the localization of advanced glycation end products and that of vascular endothelial growth factor in 27 human diabetic retinas by immunohistochemistry. Nine control retinas were also examined. In all 27 diabetic retinas, Ne-(carboxymethyl)lysine was located in the thickened vascular wall. In 19 of the 27 retinas, strand-shaped Ne-(carboxymethyl)lysine immunoreactivity was also observed around the vessels. In all 27 diabetic retinas, vascular endothelial growth factor revealed a distribution pattern similar to that of Ne-(carboxymethyl)lysine. Vascular endothelial growth factor was also located in the vascular wall and in the perivascular area. Neither Ne-(carboxymethyl)lysine nor vascular endothelial growth factor immunoreactivity was detected in the 9 control retinas. Vessels with positive immunoreactivity for Ne-(carboxymethyl)lysine and/or vascular endothelial growth factor were counted. A general association was noted between accumulation of Ne-(carboxymethyl)lysine and expression of vascular endothelial growth factor in the eyes with non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (p < 0.01) and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (p < 0.05).