Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive and fatal disease for which no effective therapy exists to date. To identify the molecular mechanisms underlying IPF, we performed comparative proteome analysis of lung tissue from patients with sporadic IPF (n = 14) and human donor lungs (controls, n = 10) using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and MALDI-TOF-MS. Eighty-nine differentially expressed proteins were identified, from which 51 were up-regulated and 38 down-regulated in IPF. Increased expression of markers for the unfolded protein response (UPR), heat-shock proteins, and DNA damage stress markers indicated a chronic cell stress-response in IPF lungs. By means of immunohistochemistry, induction of UPR markers was encountered in type-II alveolar epithelial cells of IPF but not of control lungs. In contrast, up-regulation of heat-shock protein 27 (Hsp27) was exclusively observed in proliferating bronchiolar basal cells and associated with aberrant re-epithelialization at the bronchiolo-alveolar junctions. Among the down-regulated proteins in IPF were antioxidants, members of the annexin family, and structural epithelial proteins. In summary, our results indicate that IPF is characterized by epithelial cell injury, apoptosis, and aberrant epithelial proliferation.