Three non-allelic radial swelling mutants (rsw1, rsw2 and rsw3) of Arabidopsis thaliana L. Heynh. were shown to be specifically impaired in cellulose production. Fractionation methods that identify, characterise and quantify some of the major cell wall polysaccharides in small quantities of seedlings demonstrated that changes in the production of cellulose are much more pronounced than changes in the production of non-cellulosic polysaccharides. A crude cell wall pellet was sequentially extracted with chloroform methanol (to recover lipids), dimethyl sulphoxide (starch), ammonium oxalate (pectins) and alkali (hemicelluloses). Crystalline cellulose remained insoluble through subsequent treatments with an acetic/nitric acid mixture and with trifluoroacetic acid. Cetyltrimethylammonium bromide precipitation resolved neutral and acidic polymers in the fractions, and precipitation behaviour, monosaccharide composition and glycosidic linkage patterns identified the major polysaccharides. The deduced composition of the walls of wild-type seedlings and the structure and solubility properties of the major polymers were broadly typical of other dicots. The three temperature-sensitive, radial swelling mutants produced less cellulose in their roots than the wild type when grown at their restrictive temperature (31 degrees C). There were no significant differences at 21 degrees C where no radial swelling occurs. The limited changes seen in the monosaccharide compositions, glycosidic linkage patterns and quantities of non-cellulosic polysaccharides support the view that the RSW1, RSW2 and RSW3 genes are specifically involved in cellulose synthesis. Reduced deposition of cellulose was accompanied by increased accumulation of starch.