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Malignant astrocytomas are characterized by extensive vascularization attributed to increased expression of the angiogenic cytokine vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF is elevated in astrocytomas under normal oxygen conditions and undergoes induction in hypoxic stress. Prior studies have shown that both the phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase (PI3-kinase) and MEK1/2 (MAPK/ERK kinase 1/2) pathways promote proliferation of astrocytoma cells and growth of astrocytic tumors. Whether these pathways regulate growth by modulating angiogenesis as well as proliferation is not clear. In this study, pharmacologic inhibitors were used to specifically inhibit PI3-kinase and MEK1/2 activity in human malignant astrocytoma cell lines, and their effects on VEGF expression were determined. Northern blot analysis of VEGF messenger RNA (mRNA) from cells treated with inhibitors demonstrated cell line-specific responses. The PI3-kinase pathway regulated both the normoxic expression and hypoxic induction of VEGF in 2 cell lines, whereas MEK1/2 regulated only the normoxic expression in the same 2 lines. The third cell line showed no change in VEGF mRNA with inhibition of either of these 2 pathways. This study suggests that modulation of signaling pathways implicated in proliferation of astrocytoma cell lines may have varying effects in vivo depending on the role these pathways play in regulating tumor angiogenesis.