Cinnamoyl CoA reductase (CCR) and cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase (CAD) catalyze the last steps of monolignol biosynthesis. In Arabidopsis, one CCR gene (CCR1, At1g15950) and two CAD genes (CAD C At3g19450 and CAD D At4g34230) are involved in this pathway. A triple cad c cad d ccr1 mutant, named ccc, was obtained. This mutant displays a severe dwarf phenotype and male sterility. The lignin content in ccc mature stems is reduced to 50% of the wild-type level. In addition, stem lignin structure is severely affected, as shown by the dramatic enrichment in resistant inter-unit bonds and incorporation into the polymer of monolignol precursors such as coniferaldehyde, sinapaldehyde, and ferulic acid. Male sterility is due to the lack of lignification in the anther endothecium, which causes the failure of anther dehiscence and of pollen release. The ccc hypolignified stems accumulate higher amounts of flavonol glycosides, sinapoyl malate and feruloyl malate, which suggests a redirection of the phenolic pathway. Therefore, the absence of CAD and CCR, key enzymes of the monolignol pathway, has more severe consequences on the phenotype than the individual absence of each of them. Induction of another CCR (CCR2, At1g80820) and another CAD (CAD1, At4g39330) does not compensate the absence of the main CCR and CAD activities. This lack of CCR and CAD activities not only impacts lignification, but also severely affects the development of the plants. These consequences must be carefully considered when trying to reduce the lignin content of plants in order to facilitate the lignocellulose-to-bioethanol conversion process.