Research on fibroblast biology in three-dimensional collagen matrices offers new opportunities to understand the reciprocal and adaptive interactions that occur between cells and surrounding matrix in a tissue-like environment. Such interactions are integral to the regulation of connective tissue morphogenesis and dynamics that characterizes tissue homeostasis and wound repair. During fibroblast-collagen matrix remodeling, mechanical signals from the remodeled matrix feed back to modulate cell behavior in an iterative process. As mechanical loading (tension) within the matrix increases, the mechanisms used by cells to remodel the matrix change. Fibroblasts in matrices that are under tension or relaxed respond differently to growth factor stimulation, and switching between mechanically loaded and unloaded conditions influences whether cells acquire proliferative/biosynthetic active or quiescent/resting phenotypes.