Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and placental growth factor (PlGF) plays a crucial role in breakdown of the blood-retinal barrier due to hyperpermeability in diabetic retinopathy (DR). However, the distinct signaling driven by VEGF and PlGF in the pathogenesis of DR remains unclear. In this study, we investigated VEGF- and PlGF- related signaling pathways and their roles in cultured human microvascular retinal endothelial cells (hRECs) under high glucose conditions (HG; 25 mM). Apoptotic cell death was evaluated, and FITC conjugated bovine serum albumin across monolayer hRECs served as an index of permeability. Western blots were used to assess the protein levels of VEGF and PlGF, as well as the phosphorylation of p38MAPK, STAT1 and Erk1/2. Knockdown of VEGF and PlGF was performed by using siRNA. Following HG treatment, increases of VEGF and PlGF as well as PKC activity were detected in hRECs. Increased phosphorylations of p38MAPKThr180/Thr182, STAT1Ser727, and Erk1/2Tyr202/Tyr185 as well as VEGFR1Tyr1213 and VEGFR2Tyr1175 were also detected in HG-treated hRECs. Inhibition of PKC activity by Go 6976 prevented HG-induced increases of phosphor-Erk1/2 and nitric oxide synthase (NOS1) expressions as well as hyperpermeability, whereas inhibition of p38MAPK pathway by SB203580 selectively suppressed activation of STAT1 and decreased apoptotic cell death under HG conditions. Moreover, VEGF knockdown predominantly inhibited activation of VEGFR2, and phosphorylation of p38MAPK and STAT1, as well as apoptotic cell death in HG-treated hRECs. Nevertheless, PlGF knockdown mainly suppressed phosphorylation of VEGFR1, PKC, and Erk1/2, as well as NOS1 expressions and hyperpermeability. Taken together, we provide evidence demonstrating that HG-induced elevation of PlGF is responsible for hyperpermeability mainly through increasing activation of PKC-Erk1/2-NOS axis via VEGFR1, while HG-induced elevation of VEGF is associated with induction of apoptotic cell death mainly through increasing activation of p38MAPK/STAT1 signaling via VEGFR2.