- Anatomical and functional integrity of the rat mystacial pad (MP) is dependent on the intrinsic organization of its extracellular matrix. By using collagen autofluorescence, in the rat MP, we revealed a collagenous skeleton that interconnects whisker follicles, corium, and deep collagen layers. We suggest that this skeleton supports MP tissues, mediates force transmission from muscles to whiskers, facilitates whisker retraction after protraction, and limits MP extensibility. Anat Rec, 294: 764-773, 2011. (C) 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.