A current model of growth factor-induced cell motility invokes integration of diverse biophysical processes required for cell motility, including dynamic formation and disruption of cell/substratum attachments along with extension of membrane protrusions. To define how these biophysical events are actuated by biochemical signaling pathways, we investigate here whether epidermal growth factor (EGF) induces disruption of focal adhesions in fibroblasts. We find that EGF treatment of NR6 fibroblasts presenting full-length WT EGF receptors (EGFR) reduces the fraction of cells presenting focal adhesions from ~ 60% to ~ 30% within 10 minutes. The dose dependency of focal adhesion disassembly mirrors that for EGF-enhanced cell motility, being noted at 0.1 nM EGF. EGFR kinase activity is required as cells expressing two kinase-defective EGFR constructs retain their focal adhesions in the presence of EGF. The short-term (30 minutes) disassembly of focal adhesions is reflected in decreased adhesiveness of EGF-treated cells to substratum. We further examine here known motility-associated pathways to determine whether these contribute to EGF-induced effects. We have previously demonstrated that phospholipase Cγ (PLCγ) activation and mobilization of gelsolin from a plasma membrane-bound state are required for EGFR-mediated cell motility. In contrast, we find here that short-term focal adhesion disassembly is induced by a signaling-restricted truncated EGFR (c'973) which fails to activate PLCγ or mobilize gelsolin. The PLC inhibitor U73122 has no effect on this process, nor is the actin severing capacity of gelsolin required as EGF treatment reduces focal adhesions in gelsolin-devoid fibroblasts, further supporting the contention that focal adhesion disassembly is signaled by a pathway distinct from that involving PLCγ. Because both WT and c'973 EGFR activate the erk MAP kinase pathway, we additionally explore here this signaling pathway, not previously associated with growth factor-induced cell motility. Levels of the MEK inhibitor PD98059 that block EGF-induced mitogenesis and MAP kinase phosphorylation also abrogate EGF-induced focal adhesion disassembly and cell motility. In summary, we characterize for the first time the ability of EGFR kinase activity to directly stimulate focal adhesion disassembly and cell/substratum detachment, in relation to its ability to stimulate migration. Furthermore, we propose a model of EGF-induced motogenic cell responses in which the PLCγ pathway stimulating cell motility is distinct from the MAP kinase-dependent signaling pathway leading to disassembly and reorganization of cell-substratum adhesion.