We show that a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) pathway controls embryonic migrations of blood cells (hemocytes) in Drosophila. The VEGF receptor homolog is expressed in hemocytes, and three VEGF homologs are expressed along hemocyte migration routes. A receptor mutation arrests progression of blood cell movement. Mutations in Vegf17E or Vegf27Cb have no effect, but simultaneous inactivation of all three Vegf genes phenocopied the receptor mutant, and ectopic expression of Vegf27Cb redirected migration. Genetic experiments indicate that the VEGF pathway functions independently of pathways governing hemocyte homing on apoptotic cells. The results suggest that the Drosophila VEGF pathway guides developmental migrations of blood cells, and we speculate that the ancestral function of VEGF pathways was to guide blood cell movement.
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