Reactive oxygen species (ROS) play an important role in signaling pathways stimulated by growth factors in vascular cells. We investigated whether vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is upregulated in diabetic retinopathy and atherosclerosis, is able to enhance production of ROS, and if so, whether ROS modulate endothelial permeability. ROS levels in bovine retinal microvascular endothelial cells (BMEC) were measured by the oxidation of 2′,7′-dichlorodihydrofluorescein (DCHF), and permeability was examined by monitoring the passage of albumin through BMEC monolayers. VEGF stimulated oxidation of DCHF in BMEC, an effect which was inhibited by superoxide dismutase (SOD) and the nitric oxide (NO) synthase inhibitor, N<sup>G</sup>-nitro- L-arginine methyl ester ( L-NAME), but not by D-NAME. Urate, a scavenger of peroxynitrite, attenuated the VEGF-induced oxidation of DCHF. VEGF elicited a significant increase in the macromolecule permeability of BMEC monolayers within 30 min. SOD did not modify the basal or the VEGF-stimulated hyperpermeability, but the combination of SOD and VEGF induced a transient reduction in permeability after 10 min. L-NAME, but not D-NAME, enhanced VEGF-induced hyperpermeability without affecting basal values. Urate did not modify the VEGF-induced changes in permeability. In conclusion, VEGF stimulates oxidation of DCHF, which most likely represents peroxynitrite formation, and induces an increase in permeability of BMEC monolayers. Activation of NO synthase seems to counteract this stimulatory effect of VEGF on endothelial permeability.