Wound healing has been studied in the surface ectoderm overlying the midbrain region of stages 16-20 chick embryos by light microscopy, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and immunofluorescent techniques. The embryos were divided into 6 groups, i.e. stages 16-17 for groups I, V and VI, and stages 19-20 for groups II, III and IV. For groups I and II embryos, a longitudinal incision about 0.6 mm was made close to the dorsal midline and the embryos incubated for varying periods of time up to 24 h. To determine the role of actin in the process of healing, selected groups I and II embryos were stained with FITC phalloidin and the wound margins examined using a confocal microscope. Wounds of all embryos in group I and about 20% in group II healed completely within 24 h of reincubation. The process of healing involved a change in the shapes of the ectodermal cells at the wound ends. This appeared as a zipping-up of the wound from both ends. In about 80% of group II embryos where healing did not occur, wound gaping was marked. Intense actin staining (actin cable) was observed at the wound margins of groups I and II embryos suggesting that the actin purse-string mechanism may play a role during wound healing in this epithelial model. The role of tension in wound healing was also determined by placing 2 secondary wounds about 0.5-0.7 mm long close to, and at right angles to the ends of the primary wound in groups III and V embryos. The procedure decreased the tension within the ectodermal cells at the wound ends. Groups IV and VI embryos served as controls for groups III and V embryos, respectively. Healing of both primary and secondary wounds after reduction of tension was rapid. Most primary wounds in group V embryos healed completely within 3 h of reincubation and the rate of reepithelialisation after the reduction of tension was about 160% more than that in group VI (control) embryos. Similarly, most primary wounds in group III embryos were almost closed within 6 h of reincubation. Here, the rate of reepithelialisation was 80 % more than that in group IV (controls). Thus tension is an important factor in wound healing in this model.