The diverse cellular and biological functions of the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappaB) pathway, together with the catastrophic consequences of its aberrant regulation, demand specific and highly regulated control of its activity. As described in this review, regulation of the NF-kappaB pathway is brought about through multiple post-translational modifications that control the activity of the core components of NF-kappaB signaling: the IkappaB kinase (IKK) complex, the IkappaB proteins and the NF-kappaB subunits themselves. These regulatory modifications, which include phosphorylation, ubiquitination, acetylation, sumoylation and nitrosylation, can vary, depending on the nature of the NF-kappaB-inducing stimulus. Moreover, they frequently have distinct, sometimes antagonistic, functional consequences and the same modification can have different effects depending on the context. Given the important role of NF-kappaB in human health and disease, understanding these pathways will not only provide valuable insights into mechanism and function, but could also lead to new drug targets and the development of diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for many pathological conditions.