The elucidation of molecular cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions regulating tissue dynamics necessitates straightforward model systems that can dissect the associated physiological complexity into a smaller number of distinct interactions. Here we employ a previously developed artificial ECM model system to study dynamic cell-matrix interactions involved in proteolytic three-dimensional (3-D) migration and matrix remodeling at the level of single cells. Quantitative time-lapse microscopy of primary human fibroblasts exposed to exogenous physiological matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) inhibitors revealed that 3-D migration is dependent on cell seeding density and occurred via highly localized MMP- and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-2-dependent processes. Stimulation of cells by tumor necrosis factor alpha led to a striking augmentation in fibroblast migration that was accompanied by induction of alphaVbeta3 integrin expression. In long-term cultures, extensive localized cellular matrix remodeling resulted in the morphogenesis of single cells into interconnected multicellular networks. Therefore, these tailor-made artificial ECMs can replicate complex 3-D cell-matrix interactions involved in tissue development and regeneration, an important step in the design of next-generation synthetic biomaterials for tissue engineering.