The adhesive extracellular matrix glycoprotein fibronectin (FN) is thought to play an important role in the cell migration associated with wound healing. Immunolocalization studies show abundant FN in healing wounds; however, these studies cannot define the cellular site(s) of FN synthesis, nor do they distinguish the different and potentially functionally distinct forms of FN that can arise from alternative splicing of the primary gene transcript. To examine these questions of FN synthesis and splicing during wound healing, we have performed in situ hybridization with segment-specific probes on healing wounds in adult rat skin. We find that the FN gene is expressed at increased levels after wounding both in the cells at the base of the wound and in subjacent muscle and dermis lateral to the wound. Interestingly, however, the pattern of splicing of FN mRNA was different in these areas. In adjacent dermis and muscle, the splicing pattern remains identical with that seen in normal adult rat skin, with two of the three spliced segments (EIIIA and EIIIB) excluded from FN mRNA. In contrast, these two segments are included in the FN mRNA present in the cells at the base of the wound. As a result, the mRNA in this region is spliced in a pattern identical with that found during early embryogenesis. The finding that the pattern of FN splicing during wound healing resembles an embryonic pattern suggests that alternative splicing may be used during wound healing as a mechanism to generate forms of FN that may be functionally more appropriate for the cell migration and proliferation associated with tissue repair.