Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has been implicated in the pathologic angiogenesis observed in psoriasis and other chronic inflammatory skin diseases that are characterized by enhanced expression of VEGF by epidermal keratinocytes and of VEGF receptors by tortuous microvessels in the upper dermis. To investigate the functional importance of chronic VEGF overexpression in vivo, we used a keratin 14 promoter expression cassette containing the gene for murine VEGF164 to selectively target VEGF expression to basal epidermal keratinocytes in transgenic mice. These mice demonstrated an increased density of tortuous cutaneous blood capillaries with elevated expression levels of the high affinity VEGF receptors, VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2, most prominently during the neonatal period. In contrast, no abnormalities of lymphatic vessels were detected. In addition, the number of mast cells in the upper dermis was significantly increased in transgenic skin. Intravital fluorescence microscopy revealed highly increased leukocyte rolling and adhesion in postcapillary skin venules that were both inhibited after injection of blocking antibodies against E- and P-selectin. Combined blocking antibodies against intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 were without effect, whereas an anti-vascular cell adhesion molecule-1/VLA-4 antibody combination almost completely normalized the enhanced leukocyte adhesion in transgenic mice. This study reveals VEGF as a growth factor specific for blood vessels, but not lymphatic vessels, and demonstrates that chronic orthotopic overexpression of VEGF in the epidermis is sufficient to induce cardinal features of chronic skin inflammation, providing a molecular link between angiogenesis, mast cell accumulation, and leukocyte recruitment to sites of inflammation.