To investigate the role of P. aeruginosa virulence factors in the repair of human airway epithelial cells (HAEC) in culture, we evaluated the effect of stationary-phase supernatants from the wild-type strain PAO1 on cell migration, actin cytoskeleton distribution, epithelial integrity during and after repair of induced wounds, and the balance between matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) and their tissue inhibitors (TIMP). PAO1 supernatant altered wound repair by slowing the migration velocity in association with altered actin cytoskeleton polymerization in the lamellipodia of migrating airway epithelial cells and delaying or inhibiting the restoration of epithelial integrity after wound closure. PAO1 virulence factors overactivated two of the gelatinolytic enzymes, MMP-2 and MMP-9, produced by HAEC during repair. During HAEC repair in the presence of PAO1 virulence factors, enhanced MMP-2 activation was associated with decreased rates of its specific inhibitor TIMP-2, whereas enhanced MMP-9 activation was independent of changes of its specific inhibitor TIMP-1. These inhibitory effects were specific to P. aeruginosa elastase-producing strains (PAO1 and lipopolysaccharide-deficient AK43 strain); supernatants from P. aeruginosa strain elastase-deficient PDO240 and Escherichia coli strain DH5alpha had no inhibitory effect. To mimic the effects of P. aeruginosa, we further analyzed HAEC wound closure in the presence of increasing concentrations of activated MMP-9 or MMP-2. Whereas increasing concentrations of active MMP-9 accelerated repair, excess activated MMP-2 generated a lower migration velocity. All these data demonstrate that P. aeruginosa virulence factors, especially elastase, may impede airway epithelial wound closure by altering cell motility and causing an imbalance between pro- and activated forms of MMP-2.