In rat diabetic retinas, we immunohistochemically looked for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which is also known as vascular permeability factor (VPF). In nondiabetic retinas, VEGF immunoreactivity was weak and restricted to the nerve fiber and ganglion cell layers. On the other hand, in diabetic retinas, VEGF immunoreactivity was markedly increased and was observed in all layers of the retina, especially in the perivascular area. Hyperpermeability of these vessels was confirmed by immunohistochemically detecting extravasation of albumin. These findings indicate that vascular endothelial growth factor plays an important role in blood-retinal barrier breakdown in diabetic retinopathy.