Three regions of the byssus of the marine mussel Mytilus edulis L. are distinct in structural organization at the macroscopic and microscopic level and in amino acid composition. The threads that emanate from the stem at the base of the foot are divided into two regions. The proximal, elastic region has a crimped, densely staining cortex enclosing an interior matrix of spiral fibers, and its amino acid composition reflects protein heterogeneity. The more distal, rigid region has a straight, tubular cortex surrounding an inner matrix of linearly arranged bundles of fibrils and has a composition approximating pure collagen. The plaque, or disc-shaped portion, which mediates attachment to various substrates, is distinguished by a surface matrix of collagen-like fibers similar to those of the thread region and anchored on an inner spongy matrix. Compositional evidence exists for a collagenous component, a catechol-rich protein, and at least one other accessory protein in the plaque.