The rsw1 mutant of Arabidopsis thaliana has a single amino acid substitution in a putative glycosyl transferase that causes a temperature-dependent reduction in cellulose production. We used recently described methods to examine root growth by surface marker particles, cell wall structure by field emission scanning electron microscopy and microtubule alignment by immunofluorescence after the mutant is transferred to its restrictive temperature. We find that raising the temperature quickly accelerates root elongation in both wild type and mutant, presumably as a result of general metabolic stimulation, but that in the mutant, the rate declines within 7-8 h and elongation almost ceases after 24 h. Radial swelling begins at about 6 h in the mutant and root diameter continues to increase until about 24 h. The normal transverse alignment of microfibrils is severely impaired in the mutant after 8 h, and chemical inhibition of cellulose synthesis by 2,6-dichlorobenzonitrile causes a similar loss of orientation. After 24 h, microfibrils are not clearly visible in the walls of cells that would have been in the mitotic and early-elongation zone of wild-type roots. Changes in older cells are less marked; loss of transverse microfibril orientation occurs without disruption to the transverse orientation of cortical microtubules. The wild type shows none of the changes except for acceleration of elongation, which in its case is sustained. We conclude that microfibril alignment requires the normal functioning of RSW1 and that, in view of the effects of dichlorobenzonitrile, there may be a more general linkage between the rate of cellulose production and its proper alignment.