The effect of kefir grains on the proteolysis of major milk proteins in milk kefir and in a culture of kefir grains in pasteurized cheese whey was followed by reverse phase-HPLC analysis. The reduction of kappa-, alpha-, and beta-caseins (CN), alpha-lactalbumin (alpha-LA), and beta-lactoglobulin (beta-LG) contents during 48 and 90 h of incubation of pasteurized milk (100 mL) and respective cheese whey with kefir grains (6 and 12 g) at 20 degrees C was monitored. Significant proteolysis of alpha-LA and kappa-, alpha-, and beta-caseins was observed. The effect of kefir amount (6 and 12 g/100 mL) was significant for alpha-LA and alpha- and beta-CN. alpha-Lactalbumin and beta-CN were more easily hydrolyzed than alpha-CN. No significant reduction was observed with respect to beta-LG concentration for 6 and 12 g of kefir in 100 mL of milk over 48 h, indicating that no significant proteolysis was carried out. Similar results were observed when the experiment was conducted over 90 h. Regarding the cheese whey kefir samples, similar behavior was observed for the proteolysis of alpha-LA and beta-LG: alpha-LA was hydrolyzed between 60 and 90% after 12 h (for 6 and 12 g of kefir) and no significant beta-LG proteolysis occurred. The proteolytic activity of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in kefir community was evaluated. Kefir milk prepared under normal conditions contained peptides from proteolysis of alpha-LA and kappa-, alpha-, and beta-caseins. Hydrolysis is dependent on the kefir: milk ratio and incubation time. beta-Lactoglobulin is not hydrolyzed even when higher hydrolysis time is used. Kefir grains are not appropriate as adjunct cultures to increase beta-LG digestibility in whey-based or whey-containing foods.