Poly(hydroxyethyl methacrylate), pHEMA, and a composite pHEMA/chitosan networks were synthesized in the membrane form via UV initiated photo-polymerisation in the presence of an initiator alpha,alpha'-azoisobutyronitrile. Reactive Yellow 2 (RY-2) was covalently immobilised as a dye-ligand onto both membranes. The polarity and surface energy of the investigated membranes were determined by contact angle measurement. The incorporation of chitosan in the pHEMA networks produced more hydrophilic surface, as indicated by contact angle analysis. The binding characteristics of lysozyme, gamma-globulins, human serum albumin (HSA) and bovine serum albumin (BSA) to pHEMA-RY-2 and pHEMA/chitosan-RY-2 affinity membranes have been investigated from aqueous solution and their dye-ligand free forms were used as control systems. When chitosan was incorporated in the pHEMA network as a cationic polymer led to higher adsorption capacity for the lysozyme. Selective adsorption behaviour was also observed in the case of pHEMA/chitosan-RY-2 membrane for the lysozyme. The non-specific adsorptions of the lysozyme on the pHEMA and pHEMA/chitosan membranes were about 1.9 and 7.2 mg/ml, respectively. These were negligible for all others investigated proteins. The lysozyme adsorption data was analysed using the first-order and the second-order models. The first-order equation in both affinity membrane systems is the most appropriate equation to predict the adsorption capacities of the adsorbents. The adsorption isotherms well fitted the combined Langmuir-Freundlich model. A theoretical analysis has been conducted to estimate the thermodynamic contributions (changes in enthalpy, entropy and Gibbs free energy) for the adsorption of lysozyme to both dye-ligand immobilised membranes. The adsorption capacities of both dye-ligand immobilised membranes increased with increasing the temperature while decreased with increasing the NaCl concentration. Both affinity membranes are stable when subjected to sanitization with sodium hydroxide after repeated separation-elution cycles. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.