The ubiquitin system of protein modification has emerged as a crucial mechanism involved in the regulation of a wide array of cellular processes. As our knowledge of the pathways in this system has grown, so have the ties between the protein ubiquitin and human disease. The power of the ubiquitin system for therapeutic benefit blossomed with the approval of the proteasome inhibitor Velcade in 2003 by the FDA. Current drug discovery activities in the ubiquitin system seek to (i) expand the development of new proteasome inhibitors with distinct mechanisms of action and improved bioavailability, and (ii) validate new targets. This review summarizes our current understanding of the role of the ubiquitin system in various human diseases ranging from cancer, viral infection and neurodegenerative disorders to muscle wasting, diabetes and inflammation. I provide an introduction to the ubiquitin system, highlight some emerging relationships between the ubiquitin system and disease, and discuss current and future efforts to harness aspects of this potentially powerful system for improving human health. PUBLICATION HISTORY : Republished from Current BioData's Targeted Proteins database (TPdb; http://www.targetedproteinsdb.com).