The ubiquitin-proteasome-dependent proteolytic system has been reported to regulate apoptotic cell death in many experimental cell models. We recently found that B-CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) lymphocytes are hypersensitive to apoptotic death activation through specific inhibition of proteasome function by lactacystin. Lactacystin efficiently activates apoptotic death process in B-CLL lymphocytes at doses at which no apoptotic effect can be observed in normal human lymphocytes in which 10-fold higher doses of lactacystin are required to weakly induce apoptosis. This hypersensitivity of B-cell CLL may be a result of an altered ubiquitin pathway and proteasomal proteolysis in these malignant cells, and this alteration could be specific for this malignancy. Together with other published works, these results suggest that lactacystin, though not per se a discriminatory inhibitor of the ubiquitinated protein processing/degradation, can nonetheless be discriminatory in the apoptotic cell response between B-CLL and normal lymphocytes: the property that promises efficacy in clinical trials of B-cell CLL. This hypothesis is documented by the fact that lymphocytes from patients in complete remission become resistant to lactacystin-induced apoptosis as normal lymphocytes do.