The endoglucanase I (EGI) and the cellobiohydrolase I (CBHI) of the filamentous fungus Trichoderma reesei form a homologous pair of cellulolytic enzymes which nevertheless have different modes of action. We show here that the action of CBHI on bacterial microcrystalline cellulose results in efficient solubilisation but only a slow decrease in its degree of polymerisation. In contrast, the action of EGI results in a rapid decrease of the degree of polymerisation but less efficient overall solubilisation of the substrate. CBHI alone was practically inactive toward cotton which has a high initial degree of polymerisation and a complex morphology. EGI rapidly reduced the degree of polymerisation of cotton, and slowly solubilised part of it. Working synergistically, EGI and CBHI solubilised cotton more rapidly and to a greater extent than EGI alone. Our data are consistent with the exoglucanase nature of CBHI and also provide some evidence supporting its processive mode of action.