Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), also known as vascular permeability factor, is a secreted protein which may play a pivotal role in tumor-associated microvascular angiogenesis and hyperpermeability. The expression of mRNA for VEGF was examined in eight gastric carcinoma cell lines and 30 gastric carcinoma tissues as well as corresponding normal mucosa. All the cell lines expressed VEGF mRNA at various levels that correlated well with the amounts of VEGF secreted into the condition medium. The expression of VEGF mRNA by TMK-1 cells was increased by the treatment of epidermal growth factor (EGF) or interleukin-1alpha (IL-1alpha), whereas it was decreased by the treatment of interferon-beta (IFN-beta). In gastric carcinoma tissues, the level of VEGF mRNA in primary tumors was higher than that in the corresponding normal mucosas in six (46%) of 13 well-differentiated adenocarcinomas and in two (12%) of 17 poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas, respectively. Vessel counts in well-differentiated adenocarcinomas had a tendency to be higher than those in poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas. In well-differentiated adenocarcinomas, the levels of VEGF mRNA expression tended to be higher in carcinomas of advanced stage than in early stage carcinomas. Both in situ mRNA hybridization and immunohistochemistry demonstrated the presence of VEGF expression within the tumor cells. These results suggest that VEGF may confer angiogenesis and progression of human gastric carcinomas, especially of the well-differentiated type.