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-beta 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.