Three enzymes carrying esterase domains have been identified in the rumen cellulolytic anaerobe Ruminococcus flavefaciens 17. The newly characterized CesA gene product (768 amino acids) includes an N-terminal acetylesterase domain and an unidentified C-terminal domain, while the previously characterized XynB enzyme (781 amino acids) includes an internal acetylesterase domain in addition to its N-terminal xylanase catalytic domain. A third gene, xynE, is predicted to encode a multidomain enzyme of 792 amino acids including a family 11 xylanase domain and a C-terminal esterase domain. The esterase domains from CesA and XynB share significant sequence identity (44%) and belong to carbohydrate esterase family 3; both domains are shown here to be capable of deacetylating acetylated xylans, but no evidence was found for ferulic acid esterase activity. The esterase domain of XynE, however, shares 42% amino acid identity with a family 1 phenolic acid esterase domain identified from Clostridum thermocellum XynZ. XynB, XynE and CesA all contain dockerin-like regions in addition to their catalytic domains, suggesting that these enzymes form part of a cellulosome-like multienzyme complex. The dockerin sequences of CesA and XynE differ significantly from those previously described in R. flavefaciens polysaccharidases, including XynB, suggesting that they might represent distinct dockerin specificities.