A microfluidic reactor that enables rapid digestion of proteins prior to on-line analysis by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) is introduced. The device incorporates a wide (1.5 cm), shallow (10 µm) reactor ‘well’ that is functionalized with pepsin-agarose, a design that facilitates low-pressure operation and high clogging resistance. Electrospray ionization is carried out directly from a short metal capillary integrated into the chip outlet. Fabrication, involving laser ablation of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), is exceedingly straightforward and inexpensive. High sequence coverage spectra of myoglobin (Mb), ubiquitin (Ub) and bovine serum albumin (BSA) digests were obtained after <4 s of residence time in the reactor. Stress testing showed little loss of performance over ∼2 h continuous use at high flow rates (30 µL/min). The device provides a convenient platform for a range of applications in proteomics and structural biology, i.e. to enable high-throughput workflows or to limit back-exchange in spatially resolved hydrogen/deuterium exchange (HDX) experiments. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.