A number of factors affecting production of feruloyl esterase an enzyme that hydrolyse ester linkages of ferulic acid (FA) in plant cell walls, by the thermophylic fungus Sporotrichum thermophile under solid state fermentation (SSF) were investigated. Initial moisture content and type of carbon source were consecutively optimised. SSF in a laboratory horizontal bioreactor using the optimised medium allowed the production of 156 mU g(-1) of carbon source, which compared favourably with those reported for the other micro-organisms. Optimal esterase activity was observed at pH 8 and 60 degreesC. The activity of the esterase was measured on an insoluble feruloylated hemicellulose substrate (de-starched wheat bran (DSWB)). De-esterifcation of wheat straw yielded loss of feruloyl esterase production even though the supplementation of free FA comparable to the alkali-extractable levels of FA found in wheat straw. Chromogenic (fluorogenic) 4-methylumbelliferyl ferulate was used to characterise the multienzyme component, after separation by isoelectric focusing and native PAGE electrophoresis. The zymograms indicated one major esterase activity exhibiting pI and molecular mass values 5 and 27 kDa, respectively. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.