Hypoxia can select for cells that have lost their apoptotic potential, thereby making them resistant to adverse conditions. However, long-term survival of transformed cells which have diminished apoptotic sensitivity when exposed to low oxygen conditions would require the activation of their angiogenic program to compensate for an insufficient oxygen supply. In this report, we show that the activity (of oncogenic Ha-ras, either constitutively or transiently, enhances the induction of the angiogenic mitogen, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), by hypoxia. Analysis of the 5' flanking region of the VEGF promoter indicates that a HIF-1-like sequence is to promote a 15-fold increase in reporter gene activity in Ha-ras-transformed cells when exposed to hypoxia, whereas mutations in the same site totally inhibited VEGF induction. Under low oxygen conditions, VEGF induction is inhibited in cells expressing a mutant inhibitory allele of Ha-ras (RasN17), indicating a direct role for Ras in modulating VEGF activity. We propose that the angiogenic switch in Ras-transformed cells may be physiologically promoted by the tumor microenvironment through VEGF induction.