Fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) exert their angiogenic activity by interacting with endothelial cells in a distinct manner. In this study, we investigated the morphological features of endothelial cells of the chick embryo chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) microvasculature after stimulation with FGF2 or VEGF. In order to provide a continuous delivery of the growth factor, we utilized a recently developed gelatin sponge/CAM assay in which a limited number of FGF2- or VEGF-transfected cells were adsorbed onto gelatin sponges and applied on the top of the CAM on day 8 of development. Their angiogenic activity was compared to that exerted by a single bolus of the corresponding growth factor. All the angiogenic stimuli induced a comparable vasoproliferative response, as demonstrated by the appearance of similar numbers of immature blood vessels within the sponge on day 12. No angiogenic response was observed in CAMs implanted with the corresponding parental cell lines or vehicle. Electron microscopy demonstrated that VEGF-overexpressing cells modified the phenotype of the endothelium of the blood vessels at the boundary between the implant and the surrounding CAM mesenchyme. The endothelial lining of 30% of these vessels showed segmental attenuations, was frequently interrupted and became fenestrated, mimicking what is observed in tumor vasculature. In contrast, the vessels consisted of continuous endothelium sealed by tight junctions in all the other experimental conditions. These results indicate that FGF2 and VEGF interact with endothelial cells of the CAM in a distinct manner. Both growth factors induce a potent angiogenic response, but only VEGF delivered in a continuous manner by its transfectants can modify the phenotype of the otherwise quiescent endothelium of CAM blood microvessels. The gelatin sponge/CAM assay may constitute a new model to study the mechanisms leading to endothelial fenestration in tumor growth.