Mesoporous silica SBA-15 has been synthesized and functionalized by one-step synthesis method to widen their various application possibilities. In this study, phenyltrimethoxysilane (PTMS), 3-mercapto-propyltrimethoxysilane (MPTMS) and trimethoxypropylsilane (TMPS) were used as silane precursors for the functionalization, and after treated with HCl solution, their catalytic activities were evaluated in the lactic acid-methanol esterification. The presence of anchoring of functional groups on SBA-15 was proved by XRD, FT-IR, BET surface area and pore size distributions. Good catalytic activity was observed especially for SBA-15-SO3H-MPTMS, and the catalytic activity order was determined as follows: SBA-15SO(3)H-MPTMS > SBA-15-TMPS > SBA-15-PTMS, which is directly associated with the surface area, pore size and pore volume. As compared with homogeneous catalyst, SBA-15-SO3H-MPTMS heterogeneous catalyst shows remarkable performance, such as separation, recovery and reusability. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.