Abiotic stresses are considered the most deleterious factor affecting growth and development of plants worldwide. Such stresses are largely unavoidable and trigger adaptive responses affecting different cellular processes and target different compartments. Shotgun proteomic and mass spectrometry-based approaches offer an opportunity to elucidate the response of the proteome to abiotic stresses. In this study, the severe drought or water-deficit response in Arabidopsis thaliana was mimicked by treating cell suspension callus with 40% polyethylene glycol for 10 and 30 min. Resulting data demonstrated that 310 proteins were differentially expressed in response to this treatment with a strict ±2.0-fold change. Over-representation was observed in the gene ontology categories of 'ribosome' and its related functions as well as 'oxidative phosphorylation', indicating both structural and functional drought responses at the cellular level. Proteins in the category 'endocytosis' also show significant enrichment and this is consistent with increased active transport and recycling of membrane proteins in response to abiotic stress. This is supported by the particularly pronounced enrichment in proteins of the endosomal sorting complexes that are required for membrane remodelling. Taken together, the findings point to rapid and complex physiological and structural changes essential for survival in response to sudden severe drought stress.