Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a secreted endothelial cell-specific mitogen, is produced in endocrine organs and regulated by trophic hormones. Because angiogenesis and osteogenesis are closely regulated, we studied whether human osteoblast-like cells produce VEGF, and if so, what factors regulate VEGF mRNA expression. Human osteoblast-like cells (HObLC) derived from trabecular bone explants were cultured in alpha-MEM supplemented with 10% fetal calf serum. Northern blot analysis revealed that HObLC expressed VEGF mRNA, as did several human osteosarcoma cells. 1,25-(OH)2D3 increased the steady-state levels of VEGF mRNA in a time- and concentration-dependent manner in HObLC and one of the osteosarcoma cell lines, SaOS-2, accompanied by an increase in the concentration of immunoreactive VEGF in the conditioned medium. PTH and IGF-I also increased the level of VEGF mRNA in HObLC and SaOS-2 cells. Furthermore, 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol ester stimulated VEGF mRNA in a time-and concentration-dependent manner. The VEGF mRNA expression induced by 1,25-(OH)2D3 was completely inhibited by H-7, but only partially by staurosporine. We have demonstrated that PTH, IGF-I, and most potently 1,25-(OH)2D3 stimulate the mRNA expression and secretion of VEGF in human osteoblast-like cells, suggesting that one of the anabolic effects of 1,25-(OH)2D3 on skeletal tissue may be mediated by VEGF produced by osteoblasts.