In this study, the accumulation and characteristics of soluble microbial products (SMP) in the mixed liquor and the effluent of the membrane bioreactor (MBR) were measured and compared. It was found that the concentration of SMP decreased when the SRT was increased from 10 days to 30 days, and then stabilized as SRT was increased to 60 days. The molecular weight (MW) distributions of SMP indicated that the SMP of larger MW (> 30 kDa) was the most abundant fraction in the MBR. The similar MW distributions of SMP in the mixed liquor and effluent implied that membrane fouling due to SMP in the initial slow fouling stage was not due to size sieving. After the MBR was operated for a period of time, only the SMP of relatively large MW (> 30 kDa) was detected in the mixed liquor. The result indicated that size sieving of SMP occurred only after a cake layer was formed on the membrane surface although the effect was not significant and only worked on larger molecules. The accumulation of hydrophilic components of SMP in the mixed liquor of the bioreactor suggested that the hydrophilic fraction (in carbohydrates) could be the major cause for membrane fouling.