Electrospray ionization ion trap mass spectrometry (ESI-ITMS) coupled to a two-dimensional liquid chromatographic separation was applied to the identification of peptides in antimicrobial fractions of the aqueous extracts of nine Italian cheese varieties. In particular, the chromatographic fractions collected during a preliminary fast protein liquid chromatography (FPLC) separation on the cheese extracts were assayed for antimicrobial activity towards Lactobacillus sakei A15. Active fractions were subsequently analyzed by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography electrospray ionization sequential mass spectrometry (HPLC/ESI)-ITMSn, with n up to 3. Peptide identification was then performed starting from a conventional proteomics approach based on tandem mass spectrometric (MS/MS) analysis followed by database searching. In many cases this strategy had to be integrated by a careful correlation between spectral information and predicted peptide fragmentation, in order to reach unambiguous identifications. When even this integrated approach failed, MS3 measurements provided decisive information on the amino acid sequence of some peptides, through fragmentation of pendant groups along the peptide chain. As a result, 45 peptides, all arising from hydrolysis of milk caseins, were identified in nine antimicrobial FPLC fractions of aqueous extracts obtained from five of the nine cheese varieties considered. Many of them corresponded to peptides already known to exhibit biological activity. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.