The cystine-knot motif, made up of three intertwined disulfide bridges, is a unique feature of several toxins, cyclotides and growth factors, and occurs in a variety of species, including fungi, insects, molluscs and mammals. Growth factor molecules containing the cystine-knot motif serve as ligands for a diverse range of receptors and play an important role in extracellular signalling. This superfamily of polypeptides comprises several homodimeric and heterodimeric molecules that are central characters in both health and disease. Amongst these molecules are a group of proteins that belong to the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) subfamily. The members of this family are known angiogenic factors that regulate processes leading to blood vessel formation in physiological and pathological conditions. The focus of the present review is on the structural characteristics of proteins that belong to the VEGF family and on signal-transduction pathways that become initiated via the VEGF receptors.