Androgens are known to directly stimulate prostate cancer cell growth. We have previously reported that LNCaP prostate cancer cells were dependent upon stromal coinoculation for growth in nude mice and that the stromal cells secreted a potent angiogenic factor, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which stimulated tumor angiogenesis. Immunohistochemical staining localized VEGF expression primarily to the stromal cells of human fetal and adult hyperplastic prostates, with both stromal and epithelial cell VEGF expression in prostate cancer. In the present studies, we test the hypothesis that androgens, in addition to their direct effects on prostate epithelial cells, have indirect effects on these cells via up-regulation of stromal VEGF production and angiogenesis. Primary cultures of human prostate fetal fibroblasts were treated with dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and the effects on VEGF messenger RNA (mRNA) expression were determined by Northern blotting. DHT (10 nM) increased VEGF mRNA levels maximally after 2 h. Nuclear run-on transcription assays demonstrated a 2-fold increase in the VEGF transcription rate 2 h after the addition of DHT. VEGF mRNA stability was unaffected by DHT addition. VEGF protein levels were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and were increased 2-fold 4 h after DHT addition. These data indicate that androgens increase VEGF transcription and secretion of biologically active VEGF from human prostatic stroma. Androgens, therefore, may indirectly enhance prostate growth via up-regulation of VEGF from the surrounding stroma.