The temporal and spatial expression of fibronectin and type I and III collagen genes were studied 1-14 days after surgery in the healing rat colonic anastomosis using recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid techniques. Messenger ribonucleic acids (mRNAs) coding for fibronectin and type III collagen synthesis increased from the first day after operation and type I collagen synthesis increased from the second day after operation, as demonstrated by Northern hybridizations. Maximal mRNA production for fibronectin and collagens was seen at 2 and 7 days, respectively, after anastomosis. Activation of type I and III collagen genes in the anastomotic area was confined to tissues developing in the anastomotic line, the serosal surface and the submucosal layer. Strong fibronectin expression was observed in the same areas. The results suggest that genetic events leading to collagen synthesis in the anastomotic area start immediately after surgery. Maximal gene expression is not reached until 1 week after surgery.