The environmental persistence, bioaccumulative tendency and potential toxicity of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) have generated great concern. This study aimed at evaluating the toxicity of short-term PFOS exposure in gills of the European bullhead Cottus gobio, a candidate sentinel species, by monitoring the response of some enzymes (citrate synthase CS, cytochrome c oxidase CCO, and lactate dehydrogenase LDH), and by undertaking a proteomic analysis using 2D-DIGE. First, a 96-h exposure to 1. mg PFOS/L significantly altered the activity of mitochondrial CS and CCO. Second, 2D-DIGE gels were used to compare gills from the control fish group with tissues from fish exposed for 96. h to either 0.1 or 1. mg PFOS/L. From the 27 protein spots displaying significant changes in abundance following PFOS exposure, a total of 20 different proteins were identified using nano LC-MS/MS and the Peptide and Protein Prophet of Scaffold software. The differentially expressed proteins that were identified are involved in the general stress response, ubiquitin-proteasome system, energy metabolism, and actin cytoskeleton, which provide clues on the cellular pathways and components mainly affected by PFOS. Moreover, our results showed that most proteins were differentially expressed at the low but not at the high PFOS concentration. This work provides insights into the biochemical and molecular events in PFOS-induced toxicity in gill tissue, and suggests that further studies on the identified proteins could provide crucial information to better understand the mechanisms of PFOS toxicity in fish. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.