The marine microalga Nannochloropsis sp. was chosen as a model organism to investigate the feasibility of using cell wall-degrading enzymes to enhance the recovery of intracellular lipids. An enzyme cocktail containing galactomannanase, 1,4-ß-cellobiosidase and ß-glucosidase as main components was prepared from commercial enzyme preparations. The effects of pretreatment time (P), enzyme dosage (D), pH and temperature (T) on the amount of extracted lipids were investigated using response surface methodology. Under the best conditions (P = 90 min, D = 1.3 mg g–1, pH = 5, T = 36 °C) over 70 % of the lipids present inthe microalga were recovered. SEM and TEM characterization of enzyme-treated microalgae showed extensive cell damage with significant disruption of the cell wall and release of algal material. Overall, the results obtained strongly support the use of commercial enzyme preparations to improve lipid recovery from microalgae and provide useful information on the influence of process conditions on the treatment efficiency.