Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) is a polypeptide growth factor which has been implicated as a major mitogen involved in wound healing. The PDGF appears to promote periodontal regeneration; however, its distribution in gingival tissues is not known and how it participates in gingival wound healing is unclear. Using highly specific antibodies we have studied the distribution of PDGF A and B chains and alpha- and beta-PDGF receptors in healing human gingival wounds. Wounds were created by making a 0.75 mm deep incision in the papilla and healthy gingiva and biopsies were obtained from the same site after 8 h and 1, 3, 7, 14 and 21 d. Frozen sections were immunostained with affinity purified antibodies. The results showed that both epithelium and fibrin clot manifested positive immunostaining for anti-PDGF-A and B-chain antibodies. Staining was present in unwounded and wounded epithelia, and in the fibrin clot it appeared to be more intense for the PDGF-A chain. Blood vessels in connective tissue were also positive while other areas were largely negative. No significant staining was detectable in healthy tissues for anti-PDGF-alpha or -beta receptor antibodies. However, the wound site began to manifest positive immunostaining fro anti-beta-receptor antibody after 3 d of healing, became maximal at 7 d, and then decreased. Our data indicate, but do not prove, that gingival epithelium may be a source of PDGF A and B chains and that the A chain may have a more prominent role to play during early stages of healing. Expression of PDGF beta-receptor appears later at the wound site, indicating that the PDGF B isomer may regulate later wound healing events.