To control organ shape, plant cells expand differentially. The organization of the cellulose microfibrils in the cell wall is a key determinant of differential expansion. Mutations in the COBRA (COB) gene of Arabidopsis, known to affect the orientation of cell expansion in the root, are reported here to reduce the amount of crystalline cellulose in cell walls in the root growth zone. The COB gene, identified by map-based cloning, contains a sequence motif found in proteins that are anchored to the extracellular surface of the plasma membrane through a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) linkage. In animal cells, this lipid linkage is known to confer polar localization to proteins. The COB protein was detected predominately on the longitudinal sides of root cells in the zone of rapid elongation. Moreover, COB RNA levels are dramatically upregulated in cells entering the zone of rapid elongation. Based on these results, models are proposed for the role of COB as a regulator of oriented cell expansion.