Vascular permeability factor (VPF)/vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is an angiogenic cytokine expressed by many human and animal tumors. Hypoxia often up-regulates VPF/VEGF expression further. To better define the role of VPF/VEGF in tumor biology, we screened tumorigenic lines for those expressing minimal constitutive and hypoxia-inducible VPF/VEGF. Human melanoma SK-MEL-2 cells best fit these criteria and formed small, poorly vascularized tumors in immunodeficient mice. We transfected SK-MEL-2 cells stably with sense or antisense mouse VPF/VEGF cDNA or with vector alone. Cells transfected with sense VPF/VEGF (V+) expressed and secreted large amounts of mouse VPF/VEGF and formed well-vascularized tumors with hyperpermeable blood vessels and minimal necrosis in nude/SCID mice. Antisense-transfected VPF/VEGF (V-) cells expressed reduced constitutive VPF/VEGF and no detectable mouse VPF/VEGF, and formed small, minimally vascularized tumors exhibiting extensive necrosis. Vector-alone transfectants (N1 cells) behaved like parental cells. V+ cells formed numerous lung tumor colonies in SCID mice, ∼50-fold more than N1 cells, whereas V- cells formed few or none. These experiments demonstrate that VPF/VEGF promotes melanoma growth by stimulating angiogenesis and that constitutive VPF/VEGF expression dramatically promotes tumor colonization in the lung.

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This work was supported by NIH Grants CA-64436 (to K. P. C.) and CA-40624 and CA-58845 (to H. F. D.) and under terms of a contract from the National Foundation for Cancer Research.

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