Architecture of the rice inflorescence, which is determined mainly by the morphology, number and length of primary and secondary inflorescence branches, is an important agronomical trait. In the current study, we characterized a novel dense and erect panicle (EP) mutant, dep3, derived from the Oryza sativa ssp. japonica cultivar Hwacheong treated with N-methyl-N-nitrosourea. The panicle of the dep3 mutant remained erect from flowering to full maturation, whereas the panicle of the wild type plant began to droop after flowering. The dep3 mutation also regulated other panicle characteristics, including panicle length, grain shape and grain number per panicle. Anatomical observations revealed that the dep3 mutant had more small vascular bundles and a thicker culm than wild type plants, explaining the EP phenotype. Genetic analysis indicated that the phenotype with the dense and EP was controlled by a single recessive gene, termed dep3. The DEP3 gene was identified as the candidate via a map-based cloning approach and was predicted to encode a patatin-like phospholipase A2 (PLA2) superfamily domain-containing protein. The mutant allele gene carried a 408 bp genomic deletion within LOC_Os06g46350, which included the last 47 bp coding region of the third exon and the first 361 bp of the 3'-untranslated region. Taken together, our results indicated that the patatin-like PLA2 might play a significant role in the formation of vascular bundles, and that the dep3 mutant may provide another EP resource for rice breeding programs.