Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells maintained in organ culture on Bruch's membrane and the associated choroid spread and migrate into a linear wound along the exposed basal lamina. Changes in cell shape, in the organization of microfilaments, and in cell-cell and cell-substratum interactions during this time were examined by epifluorescence and transmission electron microscopy. In contrast to cuboidal stationary cells distant from the wound edge, which display well-developed apical circumferential microfilament bundles (CMBs) associated with zonulae adhaerentes junctions, the migrating RPE cells near the wound edge instead are flat, and, in addition to microfilament bundles near junctions between adjacent cells, display prominent stress fibers. Furthermore, monoclonal antibodies to vinculin labeled regions at the terminal ends of these stress fibers indicating that the RPE cells form focal contacts with the basal lamina at these sites. Electron microscopy of these regions of cell-substratum interaction confirmed the presence of microfilament bundles that terminate on the cell membrane. Folds present in the basal lamina near these sites suggest that tension is being generated by the microfilaments in the stress fibers as the migrating cells pull on the underlying basal lamina through these adhesion points.