Proteasomes perform the majority of proteolysis that occurs in the cytosol and nucleus of eukaryotic cells and, thereby, perform crucial roles in cellular regulation and homeostasis. Isolated proteasomes are inactive because substrates cannot access the proteolytic sites. PA28 and PA200 are activators that bind to proteasomes and stimulate the hydrolysis of peptides. Several protein inhibitors of the proteasome have also been identified, and the properties of these activators and inhibitors have been characterized biochemically. By contrast, their physiological roles--which have been reported to include production of antigenic peptides, proteasome assembly and DNA repair--are controversial. In this article, we briefly review the biochemical data and discuss the possible biological roles of PA28, PA200 and proteasome inhibitors.