The corneal epithelium serves as a barrier and contributes to the maintenance of corneal transparency and rigidity. In most instances, corneal epithelial defects caused by simple injury are resurfaced promptly. However, in individuals with certain clinical conditions, such as herpes simplex virus infection, neurotrophic keratopathy or diabetic keratopathy, corneal epithelial defects persist and do not respond to conventional treatment regimens because of delayed epithelial wound healing. After the corneal epithelium is removed by injury, the remaining epithelial cells migrate over the denuded surface of the cornea in a manner that is dependent both on the interaction of the cells with the underlying substrate and on cell-cell adhesion. In this review, we describe the specific roles of cell-matrix and cell-cell interactions during the course of corneal epithelial wound healing. The clinical implications of the basic research findings are also discussed.