This study constitutes the first attempt to understand at the proteomic level the fungal response to ionic liquid stress. Ascomycota are able to grow in media supplemented with high concentrations of an ionic liquid, which, in turn, lead to major alterations in the fungal metabolic footprint. Herein, we analysed the differential accumulation of mycelial proteins in Aspergillus nidulans and Neurospora crassa after their exposure to two of the most commonly used ionic liquids: 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride or cholinium chloride. Data obtained showed that numerous stress-responsive proteins (e.g. anti-ROS defence proteins) as well as several critical biological processes and/or pathways were affected by either ionic liquid. Amongst other changes, these compounds altered developmental programmes in both fungi (e.g. promoting the development of Hulle cells or conidiation) and led to accumulation of osmolytes, some of which may play an important role in multiple stress responses. In particular, in N. crassa, both ionic liquids increased the levels of proteins which are likely involved in the biosynthesis of unusual metabolites. These data potentially open new perspectives on ionic liquid research, furthering their conscious design and their use to trigger production of targeted metabolites. Biological significance The present study emphasises the importance of understanding ionic liquid's stress responses, crucial to further their safe large-scale usage. Knowledge of the alterations prompted at a cellular and biochemical level gives also fresh perspectives on how to employ these "novel" compounds to manipulate proteins or pathways of biotechnological value. The results presented here provide meaningful insights into the understanding of fungi stress and adaptation responses to anthropogenic chemicals used in industry. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.