The hair follicle dermal papilla which controls hair growth, is characterized in the anagen phase by a highly developed vascular network. We have demonstrated in a previous study that the expression of an angiogenic growth factor called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) mRNA varied during the hair cycle. VEGF mRNA is strongly expressed in dermal papilla cells (DPC) in the anagen phase, but during the catagen and telogen phases. VEGF mRNA is less strongly expressed. This involvement of VEGF during the hair cycle allowed us to determine whether VEGF mRNA expression by DPC was regulated by minoxidil. In addition, the effect of minoxidil on VEGF protein synthesis in both cell extracts and DPC-conditioned medium, was investigated immunoenzymatically. Both VEGF mRNA and protein were significantly elevated in treated DPC compared with controls. DPC incubated with increasing minoxidil concentrations (0.2, 2, 6, 12 and 24 mumol/L) induced a dose-dependent expression of VEGF mRNA. Quantification of transcripts showed that DPC stimulated with 24 mumol/L minoxidil express six times more VEGF mRNA than controls. Similarly, VEGF protein production increases in cell extracts and conditioned media following minoxidil stimulation. These studies strongly support the likely involvement of minoxidil in the development of dermal papilla vascularization via a stimulation of VEGF expression, and support the hypothesis that minoxidil has a physiological role in maintaining a good vascularization of hair follicles in androgenetic alopecia.