Butyrolactone I (BL) is a competitive inhibitor of ATP for binding and activation of cyclin-dependent kinases and is a potent inhibitor of cell cycle progression. Treatment of H460 human lung and SW480 human colon cancer cells with doses of BL that exceed the Ki for CDK inhibition but which are much lower than doses required to inhibit MAPK, PKA, PKC, or EGFR lead to a rapid significant reduction of endogenous p21 protein expression. BL-dependent inhibition of p21 expression appears to be p53-independent. BL-dependent p21 degradation was blocked by lactacystin, consistent with the hypothesis that there is accelerated p21 proteasomal degradation in the presence of BL. BL also inhibited the p53-dependent increase of p21 protein expression in cells exposed to the DNA damag-ing agent etoposide, and favored a greater G2/M arrest as compared to the non-BL exposed cells. BL accelerated the degradation of exogenously expressed p21 that was not observed with a C-terminal truncated form of p21. Degradation of exogenous p21 led to a shift to G2 accumulation in the cells exposed to BL. We conclude that BL has effects on the cell cycle beyond its role as a CDK inhibitor and can be used as a novel tool to study the mechanism of p21 degradation and the consequences towards p21- dependent checkpoints.