The demonstration that fibroblastic cells acquire contractile features during the healing of an open wound, thus modulating into myofibroblasts, has open a new perspective in the understanding of mechanisms leading to wound closure and fibrocontractive diseases. Myofibroblasts synthesize extracellular matrix components such as collagen types I and III and during normal wound healing disappear by apoptosis when epithelialization occurs. The transition from fibroblasts to myofibroblasts is influenced by mechanical stress, TGF-β and cellular fibronectin (ED-A splice variant). These factors also play important roles in the development of fibrocontractive changes, such as those observed in liver cirrhosis, renal fibrosis, and stroma reaction to epithelial tumours. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.