Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), a vascular tumor associated with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection, is characterized by spindle-shaped endothelial cells, inflammatory cells, cytokines, growth and angiogenic factors, and angiogenesis. KS spindle cells are believed to be of the lymphatic endothelial cell (LEC) type. Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV, or human herpesvirus 8) is etiologically linked to KS, and in vitro KSHV infection of primary human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HMVEC-d) is characterized by the induction of preexisting host signal cascades, sustained expression of latency-associated genes, transient expression of a limited number of lytic genes, sustained induction of NF-kappaB and several cytokines, and growth and angiogenic factors. KSHV induced robust vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) and VEGF-C gene expression as early as 30 min postinfection (p.i.) in serum-starved HMVEC-d, which was sustained throughout the observation period of 72 h p.i. Significant amounts of VEGF-A and -C were also detected in the culture supernatant of infected cells. VEGF-A and -C were also induced by UV-inactivated KSHV and envelope glycoprotein gpK8.1A, thus suggesting a role for virus entry stages in the early induction of VEGF and requirement of KSHV viral gene expression for sustained induction. Exogenous addition of VEGF-A and -C increased KSHV DNA entry into target cells and moderately increased latent ORF73 and lytic ORF50 promoter activation and gene expression. KSHV infection also induced the expression of lymphatic markers Prox-1 and podoplanin as early as 8 h p.i., and a paracrine effect was seen in the neighboring uninfected cells. Similar observations were also made in the pure blood endothelial cell (BEC)-TIME cells, thus suggesting that commitment to the LEC phenotype is induced early during KSHV infection of blood endothelial cells. Treatment with VEGF-C alone also induced Prox-1 expression in the BEC-TIME cells. Collectively, these studies show that the in vitro microenvironments of KSHV-infected endothelial cells are enriched, with VEGF-A and -C molecules playing key roles in KSHV biology, such as increased infection and gene expression, as well as in angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis, thus recapitulating the microenvironment of early KS lesions.