In adult newts, basal epidermal cells adjacent to a fresh wound move toward the damaged area by migrating over the epidermal basement membrane. In an attempt to determine which basement membrane components mediate this migration, small pieces of glass coated with various natural matrices, purified proteins, or fragments of proteins were implanted into skin wounds such that epidermal cells attempting to form a wound epithelium would encounter the implants. Laminin derived from a cell line (M1536‐B3) that produces no type IV collagen was inactive as a migration substrate. Migration on recombinant entactin was somewhat better than on laminin but was still only ∼ 14% of that on type I collagen. M15 matrix, a laminin and entactin‐containing product of M1536‐B3 cells, was no better than entactin alone. Type IV collagen was an excellent substrate, producing slightly more migration than corresponding concentrations of type I collagen at nearly all concentrations tested. Migration on type IV lacking the NC1 domain was at least as good as on intact type IV. All the activity in type IV was present in a 95 kD fragment (al (IV)95) from the carboxy terminal two‐thirds of the α1 chain. Approximately 60% of the activity on β1(IV)95 was obtained on implants coated with a 110 amino acid fragment of the α1 chain derived from the carboxy terminal half of α1(IV)95. Adding the synthetic peptide, arg‐gly‐asp‐ser (RGDS) to the medium, biocked migration on fibronectin‐coated implants but had no effect on implants coated with type IV, suggesting that migration on type IV involves different cell surface receptors than those mediating migration over fibronectin. Matrigel, a commercial product containing most basement membrane components, was a poor migration substrate. Thus if type IV mediates basal cell migration toward a wound in vivo, there may have to be some alterations in basement membrane structure to allow epidermal receptors to access type IV active site(s). © 1994 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.