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Zosteric acid sodium salt is a powerful antifouling agent. However, the mode of its antifouling action has not yet been fully elucidated. Whole cell proteome ofEscherichia coliwas analysed to study the different protein patterns expressed by the surface-exposed planktonic cells without and with sublethal concentrations of the zosteric acid sodium salt. Proteomic analysis revealed that at least 27 proteins showed a significant (19 upregulated and 8 downregulated,P< 0.001) altered expression level in response to the antifoulant. The proteomic signatures of zosteric acid sodium salt-treated cells are characterized by stress-associated (e.g. AhpC, OsmC, SodB, GroES, IscU, DnaK), motility-related (FliC), quorum-sensing-associated (LuxS) and metabolism/biosynthesis-related (e.g. PptA, AroA, FabD, FabB, GapA) proteins. Consistent with the overexpression of LuxS enzyme, the antifouling agent increased autoinducer-2 (AI-2) concentration by twofold. Moreover, treated cells experienced a statistically significant but modest increase of reactive oxygen species (+ 23%), tryptophanase (1.2-fold) and indole (1.2-fold) synthesis. Overall, our data suggest that zosteric acid sodium salt acts as environmental cue leading to global stress onE. colicells, which favours the expression of various protective proteins, the AI-2 production and the synthesis of flagella, to escape from adverse conditions.