How soybean protein hydrolysates (SPHs) to favor the growth of S. thermophilus ST were investigated. Hydrolyzed soybean protein was fractionated to 4 fragments, that is, SPH-I, SPH-II, SPH-III, and SPH-IV according to their molecular weight sizes. SPHs can improve the growth of strain ST, in which SPH-IV, with the molecular weight of less than 5 kD, significantly promoted the growth of strain ST. The cell counts of strain ST grew quickly from 7.71 to 9.78 (log CFU/mL) when the concentrations of SPH-IV ranging from 0% to 1%. Moreover, 2 chemically defined media (CDMs) were used to test their roles in maintaining the viability of strain ST. CDMs only maintained the survival of strain ST, but SPH-IV had the promotional effects on proliferation of the bacteria. SPH-IV was further characterized to be oligopeptides that contain 2 to 8 amino acids and free amino acids by high-performance liquid chromatography—mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS) analysis. The amino acid compositions showed that SPH-IV contained more essential amino acids, which were necessary for the growth of S. thermophilus ST. Clearly, SPH-IV could be used as an exogenous nitrogen supplement to enhance the proliferation of S. thermophilus ST and other lactic acid bacteria, and the data from small scale-up fermentation also supported this point.
Soybean protein hydrolysate contained a lot of oligopeptides, and it could be used as nitrogen supplement to enhance the growth of lactic acid bacteria (LAB).