We studied the reaction between vinyl butyrate and 2-phenyl-1-propanol in acetonitrile catalyzed by Fusarium solani pisi cutinase immobilized on zeolites NaA and NaY and on Accurel PA-6. The choice of 2-phenyl-1-propanol was based on modeling studies that suggested moderate cutinase enantioselectivity towards this substrate. With all the supports, initial rates of transesterification were higher at a water activity (a(w)) of 0.2 than at a(w) = 0.7, and the reverse was true for initial rates of hydrolysis. By providing acid-base control in the medium through the use of solid-state buffers that control the parameter pH-pNa, which we monitored using an organo-soluble chromoionophoric indicator, we were able, in some cases, to completely eliminate dissolved butyric acid. However, none of the buffers used were able to improve the rates of transesterification relative to the blanks (no added buffer) when the enzyme was immobilized at an optimum pH of 8.5. When the enzyme was immobilized at pH 5 and exhibited only marginal activity, however, even a relatively acidic buffer with a pK(a) of 4.3 was able to restore catalytic activity to about 20% of that displayed for a pH of immobilization of 8.5, at otherwise identical conditions. As aw was increased from 0.2 to 0.7, rates of transesterification first increased slightly and then decreased. Rates of hydrolysis showed a steady increase in that a, range, and so did total initial reaction rates. The presence or absence of the buffers did not impact on the competition between transesterification and hydrolysis, regardless of whether the butyric acid formed remained as such in the reaction medium or was eliminated from the microenvironment of the enzyme through conversion into an insoluble salt. Cutinase enantioselectivity towards 2-phenyl-1-propanol was indeed low and was not affected by differences in immobilization support, enzyme protonation state, or a(w). (C) 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.