Healing of ocular surface wounds is a complex process involving migration, mitosis, and differentiation of epithelial and stromal cells. Endogenously produced peptide growth factors such as epidermal growth factor (EGF), transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha), or transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) may play key roles in the natural wound healing process. Lacrimal gland cells were reported to synthesize and secrete EGF into tear fluid where it may enhance healing of corneal epithelial and stromal injuries by an exocrine pathway. EGF stimulated DNA synthesis of epithelial cells and stromal fibroblasts in culture, stimulated synthesis of fibronectin by epithelial cells and was chemotactic for human epithelial and stromal cells. Human corneal epithelial cells also synthesized TGF-alpha which may influence epithelial cells by an autocrine pathway. TGF-beta, which is a potent inducer of lysyl oxidase mRNA levels in cultures of human scleral fibroblasts, may be the factor most responsible for inducing synthesis of corneal extracellular matrix components after an injury. Treatment of epithelial injuries ocular surface wounds with exogenous peptide growth factors also accelerated healing in rabbits and primates. Treatment of severe ocular surface injuries caused by alkali with a combination of EGF, fibronectin, a synthetic collagenase inhibitor, and Aprotinin significantly blocked ulceration and enhanced epithelial regeneration. Clinical trials of topical treatment of EGF for ocular surface wounds suggest that peptide growth factors may be a valuable adjuvant for treatment of ocular surface wounds.