Cell migration is the principal force behind the early restitution of erosions of the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract. Despite the importance of cell migration to healing, no attempts to study the process in culture have been reported. We have attempted to standardize conditions for migration and test the migration responses of the small intestinal epithelial crypt cell line IEC-6 in some experimental situations already well known in vivo. We found good correspondence between in culture and in vivo on the following points: 1) migration was independent of DNA synthesis; 2) DNA synthesis was not concentrated at the wound edge; and 3) inhibition of actin polymerization stopped migration altogether. In addition, the presence of an extracellular matrix maximized migration. Protein inhibitors with different modes of action inhibited cell migration to different degrees, not always commensurate with their inhibition of protein synthesis. Cell surface proteoglycans were important; hyaluronic acid had an effect, but the secretion of a migration-stimulating substance by wounded cells was equivocal. Significantly, alpha-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), which inhibits ornithine decarboxylase and polyamine synthesis, almost totally prevented cell migration. Because DFMO also prevents healing of mucosal erosions in vivo, we believe that this model can be used, keeping in mind its spatial limitations, to study the process of cell migration involved in the early restitution of mucosal erosions.