Gilthead sea bream exposed to the cold show multiple physiological alterations, particularly in liver. A typical cold-stress response was reproduced in gilthead sea bream acclimated to 20 degrees C (Warm group) when the water temperature was lowered to 8 degrees C (Cold group). After 10 days, thiobarbituric acid reactive substances in the liver had increased by 50%, and nitric oxide had increased twofold. This indicates that lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress had occurred. Protein profiles of liver from fish in warm and cold environments were obtained by 2-DE. Quantification of differential expression by matching spots showed that a total of 57 proteins were altered significantly. Many proteins were downregulated following cold exposure, including actin, the most abundant protein in the proteome; enzymes of amino acid metabolism; and enzymes with antioxidant capacity, such as betaine-homocysteine-methyl transferase, glutathione-S-transferase and catalase. Some proteins associated with protective action were upregulated at low temperatures, including peroxiredoxin, thioredoxin and lysozyme; as well as enzymes such as aldehyde dehydrogenase and adenosin-methionine synthetase. However, the upregulation of proteases, proteasome activator protein and trypsinogen-like protein indicated an increase in proteolysis. Increases in elongation factor-1alpha, the GAPDH oxidative form, tubulin and Raf-kinase inhibitor protein indicated oxidative stress and the induction of apoptosis. These data indicate that cold exposure induced oxidative damage in hepatocytes.