Larval attachment and metamorphosis, commonly referred to as larval settlement, of marine sessile invertebrates can be triggered or blocked by chemical cues and affected by changes in overall protein expression pattern and phosphorylation dynamics. This study focuses on the effects of butenolide, an effective larval settlement inhibitor, on larval settlement at the proteome level in the bryozoan Bugula neritina. Liquid-phase IEF sample prefractionation combined with 2-DE and MALDI-TOF MS was used to identify the differentially expressed proteins. Substantial changes occurred both in protein abundance and in phosphorylation status during larval settlement and when settling larvae were challenged with butenolide. The proteins that responded to treatment were identified as structural proteins, molecular chaperones, mitochondrial peptidases and calcium-binding proteins. Compared with our earlier results, both genistein and butenolide inhibited larval settlement of B. neritina primarily by changes in protein abundance and the phosphorylation status of proteins but have different protein targets in the same species. Clearly, to design potent antifouling compounds and to understand the mode of action of compounds, more studies on the effects of different compounds on proteome and phosphoproteome of different larval species are required. © 2010 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA.