Epidermal growth factor and cartilage-derived basic fibroblast growth factor (EGF and CD-bFGF) are mitogens shown to increase the rate of wound repair in animal models. In addition to being a mitogen for granulation tissue, CD-bFGF stimulates the recruitment of cells to the wound site. CD-bFGF and a closely-related chondrosarcoma-derived fibroblast growth factor stimulated chemotaxis of granulation tissue cells in vitro, each factor having a maximum activity at a concentration of 55 pM. Epidermal growth factor was also a potent chemoattractant for rat granulation tissue fibroblasts; however, maximum activity was obtained at 1.7 nM. Cells from all stages of wound repair were chemotactically responsive to these factors, but there was some attenuation of the response to bFGF in cells derived from fully-organized day 28 granulation tissue. Collagenase-catalyzed restructuring of collagen, an additional significant feature of wound repair, is probably critical to cell movement in an extracellular matrix. Cells derived from organizing (6-day old) sponge granulation tissue secreted latent collagenase constitutively in vitro. In the presence of serum, the production of collagenase was stimulated three-four fold by 1.8 nM bFGF derived either from cartilage or chondrosarcoma. When serum was present, as at a wound site, collagenase production was not enhanced by the addition of EGF. Cells from fully organized, day 21 sponge granulation tissue did not secrete latent collagenase constitutively and could not be stimulated to do so by the addition of EGF, bFGF, or phorbol ester. Human skin fibroblast collagenase production was also stimulated by bFGF and was refractory to EGF. While both classes of growth factor have the ability to promote wound healing, the varying responses they elicit in cell populations from the wound site emphasize the different pathways of cellular activation.