During wound repair a 3-day lag occurs between injury and granulation tissue development. When full-thickness, 8-mm-round, excisional wounds were made in the paravertebral skin of outbred Yorkshire pigs and harvested at various times, no granulation tissue was observed before day 4. Day 4 wounds were 3% filled with granulation tissue, day 5 wounds 48% filled, and day 7 wounds 88% filled. The prerequisites for granulation tissue induction are not known but hypothetically include fibrin matrix maturation or cell activation. To examine whether matrix maturation was necessary, wounds were allowed to heal for 5 or 7 days and then aggressively curetted, resulting in the formation of fresh fibrin clots in the newly formed wound spaces. In contrast to original wounds, no lag phase was observed; wounds curetted on day 5 were 23% filled with granulation tissue 1 day later and 99% filled 3 days later, whereas wounds curetted on day 7 were 47% filled 1 day later and completely filled within 2 days. Thus, granulation tissue formation resumed promptly and independently of fibrin clot matrix maturation. This observation suggested that mesenchymal cell activation might be the rate-limiting step in granulation tissue formation. To address this hypothesis more directly, cultured porcine or human fibroblasts, grown to 80% confluence in Dulbecco's minimal essential medium plus 10% fetal calf serum, were added to new wounds. These wounds were sealed with a freshly made exogenous fibrin clot. In some wounds, platelet releasate was added to the fibrin clot. Granulation tissue did not form in day 3 wounds, which had received either fibrin alone, fibrin and platelet releasate, or fibrin and fibroblasts. In contrast, granulation tissue was observed in wounds receiving fibrin, human fibroblasts, and platelet releasate. By day 4, wounds receiving cultured human fibroblasts, fibrin, and platelet releasate were 14% filled with granulation tissue compared with less than 4% granulation tissue in control wounds. Thus, fibroblast activation is a limiting step of granulation tissue formation, and continued cell stimulation is required for accelerated development.