Several brittle culm mutations of rice (Oryza sativa) causing fragility of plant tissues have been identified genetically but not characterized at a molecular level. We show here that the genes responsible for three distinct brittle mutations of rice, induced by the insertion of the endogenous retrotransposon Tos17, correspond to CesA (cellulose synthase catalytic subunit) genes, OsCesA4, OsCesA7 and OsCesA9. Three CesA genes were expressed in seedlings, culms, premature panicles, and roots but not in mature leaves, and the expression profiles were almost identical among the three genes. Cellulose contents were dramatically decreased (8.9%-25.5% of the wild-type level) in the culms of null mutants of the three genes, indicating that these genes are not functionally redundant. Consistent with these results, cell walls in the cortical fiber cells were shown to be thinner in all the mutants than in wild-type plants. Based on these observations, the structure of a cellulose-synthesizing complex involved in the synthesis of the secondary cell wall is discussed.