An extended enzymatic hydrolysis of cotton fibers by crude cellulase from Trichodermapseudokoningii S-38 is described with characterization of both the enzyme changes of activities and cellulose structure. The hydrolysis rates declined drastically during the early stage and then slowly and steadily throughout the whole hydrolysis process the same trend could be seen during the following re-hydrolysis process. Morphological and structural changes to the fibers, such as swelling, frequent surface erosion, and variation in the packing and orientation of microfibrils, were investigated by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Observation of X-ray diffraction and IR spectra suggests that the hydrolysis process results in a gradual increase in the relative intensity of the hydrogen bond network, and a gradual decrease in the apparent crystal size of cellulose. The Iα crystal phase was hydrolyzed more easily than was the Iβ crystal phase. Apart from the inactivation of CBHs activity, changes in the packing and arrangement of microfibrils and the structural heterogeneity of cellulose during hydrolysis could be responsible for the reduction in the rate of reaction, especially in its later stages. The results indicate that the enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose occurs on the outer layer of the fiber surface and that, following this, the process continues in a sub-layer manner. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.