Cellulose synthesis in plants requires β-1,4-glucan chain initiation, elongation, and termination. The process of chain elongation is likely to be distinct from the process of chain initiation. We demonstrate that a CesA glucosyltransferase initiates glucan polymerization by using sitosterol-β-glucoside (SG) as primer. Cotton fiber membranes synthesize sitosterol-cellodextrins (SCDs) from SG and uridine 5'-diphosphate-glucose (UDP-Glc) under conditions that also favor cellulose synthesis. The cellulase encoded by the Korrigan (Kor) gene, required for cellulose synthesis in plants, may function to cleave SG from the growing polymer chain.