Cinnamoyl CoA reductase (CCR; EC 126.96.36.199) is the first enzyme specific to the biosynthetic pathway leading to monolignols. Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. plants transformed with a vector containing a full-length AtCCR1 cDNA in an antisense orientation were obtained and characterized. The most severely down-regulated homozygous plants showed drastic alterations to their phenotypical features. These plants had a 50% decrease in lignin content accompanied by changes in lignin composition and structure, with incorporation of ferulic acid into the cell wall. Microscopic analyses coupled with immunolabelling revealed a decrease in lignin deposition in normally lignified tissues and a dramatic loosening of the secondary cell wall of interfascicular fibers and vessels. Evaluation of in vitro digestibility demonstrated an increase in the enzymatic degradability of these transgenic lines. In addition, culture conditions were shown to play a substantial role in lignin level and structure in the wild type and in the effects of AtCCR1 repression efficiency.