Tissue injury results in profound alterations in the collagen network, associated with unfolding of the collagen triple helix, proteolytic degradation and generation of fragments. In the infarcted myocardium, changes in the collagen network are critically involved in the pathogenesis of left ventricular rupture, adverse remodeling and chronic dysfunction. We hypothesized that myocardial infarction is associated with temporally and spatially restricted patterns of collagen denaturation that may reflect distinct molecular mechanisms of collagen unfolding. We used a mouse model of non-reperfused myocardial infarction, and in vitro assays in fibroblast-populated collagen lattices. In healing infarcts, labeling with collagen hybridizing peptide (CHP) revealed two distinct patterns of collagen denaturation. During the inflammatory and proliferative phases of infarct healing, collagen denaturation was pericellular, localized in close proximity to macrophages and myofibroblasts. qPCR array analysis of genes associated with matrix remodeling showed that Membrane Type 1-Matrix Metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP) is markedly upregulated in infarct macrophages and fibroblasts, suggesting its involvement in pericellular collagen denaturation. In vitro, MT1-MMP-mediated pericellular collagen denaturation is involved in cardiac fibroblast migration. The effects of MT1-MMP on collagen denaturation and fibroblast migration involve the catalytic site, and require hemopexin domain-mediated actions. In contrast, during the maturation phase of infarct healing, extensive collagen denaturation was noted in the hypocellular infarct, in the infarct border zone and in the mitral valve annulus, in the absence of MT1-MMP. In vitro, mechanical tension in attached collagen lattices was sufficient to induce peripheral collagen denaturation. Our study suggests that in healing infarcts, early pericellular collagen denaturation may be important for migration of macrophages and reparative myofibroblasts in the infarct. Extensive denaturation of collagen fibers is noted in mature scars, likely reflecting mechanical tension. Chronic collagen denaturation may increase susceptibility of the matrix to proteolysis, thus contributing to progressive cardiac dilation and post-infarction heart failure.