The human core COP9 signalosome consists of eight subunits which have been identified, cloned and sequenced. The components of COP9 signalosome possess homologies with eight non-ATPase regulatory subunits of the 26S proteasome. These polypeptides of the 19S regulator form a reversibly binding subcomplex called the 'lid'. We isolated the 'lid' from human red blood cells and compared it with the COP9 signalosome complex. In addition to the non-ATPase regulatory polypeptides, we found a high molecular mass ATPase copurifying with the human 'lid'. The COP9 signalosome-associated kinase activity is either not at all or only weakly affected by common kinase inhibitors such as 1-(5-Isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-methyl-piperazine (H7), 5,6-dichloro-1-beta-D-ribofuranosyl-benzimidazole (DRB) or Wortmannin. Curcumin, a tumor suppressor and effector of AP-1 activation, is a potent inhibitor of the COP9 signalosome kinase activity with a Ki of about 10 microM. Since curcumin is known as an inhibitor of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling pathway acting upstream of the MAP kinase kinase kinase level, one site of action of the COP9 signalosome might be proximal to regulators on that level.