For the process of aging in epidermal cells to be characterized, the status of oxidized and damaged protein accumulation and removal by the proteasome has been investigated. Modified protein content and proteasome activity were assayed in lysates of epidermal cells from donors of different ages. Increased levels of oxidized proteins, glycated proteins, and proteins modified by the lipid peroxidation product 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal were observed in cells from old donors. At the same time, a decline of chymotrypsin-like and peptidylglutamyl-peptide hydrolase activities of the proteasome was found in aging keratinocytes. This age-related decline of the proteasome peptidase activities can be explained, at least in part, by a decreased proteasome content as observed by immunoblotting and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. In keratinocyte cultures, a decrease of proteasome activity and content was observed upon serial passaging. In cultures, as well as in skin, an inverse relationship was found between the aging marker 1-galactosidase and the proteasome content. These results suggest that proteasome is downregulated during replicative senescence as well as in aged cells in vivo, possibly resulting in the accumulation of modified proteins.