A novel esterase gene (estI) of Lactobacillus casei CL96 was localized on a 3.3-kb BamHI DNA fragment containing an open reading frame (ORF) of 1,800 bp. The ORF of estI was isolated by PCR and expressed in Escherichia coli, the methylotrophic bacterium Methylobacterium extorquens, and the methylotrophic yeast Pichia pastoris under the control of T7, methanol dehydrogenase (PmxaF), and alcohol oxidase (AOX1) promoters, respectively. The amino acid sequence of EstI indicated that the esterase is a novel member of the GHSMG family of lipolytic enzymes and that the enzyme contains a lipase-like catalytic triad, consisting of Ser325, Asp516, and His558. E. coli BL21(DE3)/pLysS containing estI expressed a novel 67.5-kDa protein corresponding to EstI in an N-terminal fusion with the S · tag peptide. The recombinant L. casei CL96 EstI protein was purified to electrophoretic homogeneity in a one-step affinity chromatography procedure on S-protein agarose. The optimum pH and temperature of the purified enzyme were 7.0 and 37°C, respectively. Among the pNP (p-nitrophenyl) esters tested, the most selective substrate was pNP-caprylate (C8), with Km and kcat values of 14 ± 1.08 μM and 1,245 ± 42.3 S⁻¹, respectively.