Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), a kind of widely distributed environmentally organic compound, has been found to cause developmental toxicity. Although microRNAs (miRNAs) play an important role in many metabolic tasks, whether and how they are involved in the process of PFOS-induced toxicity is largely unknown. To address this problem, PFOS-induced changes in miRNAs and target gene expression in zebrafish embryos, and the potential mechanism of PFOS-induced toxic action were studied in this research. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to 1 µg ml−1 PFOS or DMSO control from 6 h post-fertilization (hpf) to 24 or 120 hpf. Subsequently, RNA was isolated from the embryo pool and the expression profiles of 219 known zebrafish miRNAs were analyzed using microarray. Finally, quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to validate several miRNAs expression of microarray data. The analysis revealed that PFOS exposure induced significant changes in miRNA expression profiles. A total of 39 and 81 miRNAs showed significantly altered expression patterns after PFOS exposure 24 and 120 hpf. Of the changed miRNAs, 20 were significantly up-regulated and 19 were significantly down-regulated (p < 0.01) at 24 hpf, whereas 41 were significantly up-regulated and 40 were significantly down-regulated (p < 0.01) at 120 hpf. These miRNAs were involved in development, apoptosis and cell signal pathway, cell cycle progression and proliferation, oncogenesis, adipose metabolism and hormone secretion, whereas there is still little functional information available for 32 miRNAs. Our results demonstrate that PFOS exposure alters the expression of a suite of miRNAs and may induce developmental toxicity. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.