Laccase, EC 18.104.22.168 or p-diphenol:dioxygen oxidoreductase, has been proposed to be involved in lignin synthesis in plants based on its in vitro enzymatic activity and a close correlation with the lignification process in plants. Despite many years of research, genetic evidence for the role of laccase in lignin synthesis is still missing. By screening mutants available for the annotated laccase gene family in Arabidopsis, we identified two mutants for a single laccase gene, AtLAC15 (At5g48100) with a pale brown or yellow seed coat which resembled the transparent testa (tt) mutant phenotype. A chemical component analysis revealed that the mutant seeds had nearly a 30% decrease in extractable lignin content and a 59% increase in soluble proanthocyanidin or condensed tannin compared with wild-type seeds. In an in vitro enzyme assay, the developing mutant seeds showed a significant reduction in polymerization activity of coniferyl alcohol in the absence of H(2)O(2). Among the dimers formed in the in vitro assay using developing wild-type seeds, 23% of the linkages were beta-O-4 which resembles the major linkages formed in native lignin. The evidence strongly supports that AtLAC15 is involved in lignin synthesis in plants. To our knowledge, this is the first genetic evidence for the role of laccase in lignin synthesis. Changes in seed coat permeability, seed germination and root elongation were also observed in the mutant.