Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), also known as a vascular permeability factor (VPF), is an endothelial specific mitogen and is a potent inducer of angiogenesis. Recently it has been reported that hypoxia induces VEGF mRNA expression in various cells. Since both oxygen and glucose are required for efficient production of energy, we examined the effect of glucose deprivation on VEGF mRNA expression and VEGF protein production in U-937 (a human monocytic cell line) cells. Both the mRNA expression and secretion of VEGF increased after exposure to low glucose. Addition of L-glucose, the L-stereoisomer of D-glucose, did not prevent the up-regulation of VEGF expression. The conditioned medium from glucose-deprived cells, followed by supplementation with glucose, did not up-regulate VEGF mRNA expression in U-937 cells. The low glucose-induced VEGF mRNA expression returned to the control level after supplementation with D-glucose. Furthermore, oligomycin, a mitochondrial ATP synthase inhibitor, increased VEGF protein production. The results suggest that the up-regulation of VEGF mRNA in U-937 cells in response to glucose deprivation is not mediated by autocrine factors from the cells nor is the osmotic change of the medium mediated by the deficiency of glucose metabolism in the cells. Our results also suggest that the intracellular ATP depletion due to glucose deprivation may be one of the causes for increased VEGF mRNA expression. We speculate that local hypoglycemia may act as an essential trigger for angiogenesis through the VEGF gene expression.