The proliferation of vascular endothelial cells (EC) is an important event in angiogenesis. The synthesis of the EC growth factor, vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF), is stimulated by a variety of activators; but the effects of important vasoactive peptides are not well understood, and there are no known natural inhibitors of VEGF production. We found that the vasoactive peptides endothelin (ET)-1 and ET-3 stimulated the synthesis of VEGF protein 3-4-fold in cultured human vascular smooth muscle cells, comparable in magnitude to hypoxia. ET-1 and ET-3 acted through the ETA and ETB receptors, respectively, and signaling through protein kinase C was important. Atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), C-type natriuretic peptide, and C-ANP-(4-23), a ligand for the natriuretic peptide clearance receptor, equipotently inhibited production of VEGF by as much as 88% and inhibited ET- or hypoxia-stimulated VEGF transcription. EC proliferation and invasion of matrix were stimulated by VEGF secreted into the medium by ET-incubated vascular smooth muscle cells. This was inhibited by ANP. Our results identify the natriuretic peptides as the first peptide inhibitors of VEGF synthesis and indicate a novel mechanism by which vasoactive peptides could modulate angiogenesis.