The growth of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) generates a high number of metabolites related to aromas and flavors in fermented dairy foods. These microbial proteases are involved in protein hydrolysis that produces necessary peptides for their growth and releases different molecules of interest, like bioactive peptides, during their activity. Each genus in particular has its own proteolytic system to hydrolyze the necessary proteins to meet its requirements. This review aims to highlight the differences between the proteolytic systems of Streptococcus thermophilus and other lactic acid bacteria (Lactococcus and Lactobacillus) since they are microorganisms that are frequently used in combination with other LAB in the elaboration of fermented dairy products. Based on genetic studies and in vitro and in vivo tests, the proteolytic system of Streptococcus thermophilus has been divided into three parts: 1) a serine proteinase linked to the cellular wall that is activated in the absence of glutamine and methionine; 2) the transport of peptides and oligopeptides, which are integrated in both the Dpp system and the Ami system, respectively; according to this, it is worth mentioning that the Ami system is able to transport peptides with up to 23 amino acids while the Opp system of Lactococcus or Lactobacillus transports chains with less than 13 amino acids; and finally, 3) peptide hydrolysis by intracellular peptidases, including a group of three exclusive of S. thermophilus capable of releasing either aromatic amino acids or peptides with aromatic amino acids.
Keywords: Proteolysis; Streptococcus thermophilus; lactic acid bacteria.