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The development of the corpus luteum (CL) is accompanied by very active angiogenesis. We hypothesize that during this process endothelial cells (EC) are under the control of several angiogenic factors and steroids. The aim of this study was to examine the expression of the angiogenic growth factor systems - fibroblast growth factor (FGF) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) - in EC derived from the bovine CL. Endothelial cells were cultured in serum-free medium and treated for 24 h with different concentrations of oestradiol (range from 10(-13) to 10(-5) mol/l), VEGF or FGF-2 (1, 10 and 100 ng/ml, respectively) and compared with untreated controls. Cells were harvested, total RNA extracted and subjected to semi-quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Treatment with oestradiol or FGF-2 stimulated the expression of FGF-2, but VEGF treatment showed no effect on the FGF-2 expression. FGF-2 or VEGF treatment resulted in an up-regulation of the FGF receptor (FGFR) mRNA. However, no FGF-1 expression was detected in EC. For the VEGF system, treatment with FGF-2, VEGF or oestradiol did not affect VEGF expression. However, the presence of FGF-2 in the medium up-regulated the expression of both VEGF receptors (VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2), whereas oestradiol or VEGF treatment showed no effect on the expression of these receptors. Our results reveal that functional angiogenic growth factor systems were expressed in vitro in bovine EC derived from the CL. This suggests that the angiogenic FGF and VEGF system members were regulated by FGF or VEGF, but not by oestradiol-17beta.