Feruloyl Esterase Protocols

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These are methods to screen for and assay Ferulic-acid Esterase activity.

Plate Screen


  • Ethyl ferulate solution (100mg/ml in dimethylformamide).
  • Agar plates of media appropriate to your microorganism.
    • If screening natural strains some find it helpful to eliminate glucose from the media to drive FAE secretion.
    • This means that you will have to make this media yourself and can't buy a premix.
  • Water
  • Agar or Agarose (agarose is preferred)


1. Grow colonies on agar plates of appropriate media until colonies reach a decent size.
2. For each plate to be screened, add 25-30mg agar to 6ml of water (i.e. if your screening 3 plates thats 80mg agar to 18ml water).
3. Microwave the agar mix until the agar is melted and put in 60°C water bath.
4. Once the media has been in the water bath for 10 mins:

1. Add the 20μL of ethyl ferulate solution for every ml of top agar (60μL per plate), and swirl lightly to disperse.
  • You want the ethyl ferulate to look cloudy in the agar so don't swirl too hard.
  • Bubbles = Enemy
2. Pour onto grown colonies immediately.

5. Incubate for ~4 hours.
6. If a clear halo forms around the colony in the top agar then it's positive for FAE!!!


  • Donaghy et al. (1998) added the ethyl ferulate solution directly to the media plates at a concentration of 20μL/mL while Hassan and Pattat (2011) added it to the top agar at a stated concentration of 0.05mg/ml. We've found that the hassan and pattat concentration is way too low to make the agar cloudy but 1mg/ml can work well in a pinch. -- Mike
  • Agarose instead of agar is better too for top agar.



  • Protein desalting columns
  • sodium azide
  • Dnase
  • 4-nitrophenyl ferulic acid


  1. Make Protein buffer
    1. 100mM hepes
    2. 10μg/mL sodium Azide
    3. 5μL/mL Dnase
  2. Concentrate cellular proteins from 1mL culture into 100μL buffer
  3. Make Substrate buffer
    1. 2.5mM 4-nitrophenyl ferulic acid
    2. 0.5MKPO4
  4. Add 20μL protein to 80μL substrate
  5. Incubate for 30 mins at 37°C



Donaghy, J., P. F. Kelly, et al. (1998). "Detection of ferulic acid esterase production by Bacillus spp. and lactobacilli." Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 50(2): 257-260.

Mastihuba, V., L. Kremnicky, et al. (2002). "A spectrophotometric assay for feruloyl esterases." Analytical Biochemistry 309(1): 96-101.

Nsereko, V. L., B. K. Smiley, et al. (2008). "Influence of inoculating forage with lactic acid bacterial strains that produce ferulate esterase on ensilage and ruminal degradation of fiber." Animal Feed Science and Technology 145(1-4): 122-135.

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