A luminescent method to individually measure the chymotrypsin-like, trypsin-like, or caspase-like activities of the proteasome in cultured cells was developed. Each assay uses a specific luminogenic peptide substrate in a buffer optimized for cell permeabilization, proteasome activity, and luciferase activity. Luminescence is generated in a coupled-enzyme format in which proteasome cleavage of the peptide conjugated substrate generates aminoluciferin, which is a substrate for luciferase. The homogeneous method eliminates the need to prepare individual cell extracts as samples. Luminogenic proteasome substrates and buffer formulations enabled development of a single reagent addition method with adequate sensitivity for 96- and 384-well plate formats. Proteasome trypsin-like specificity was enhanced by incorporating a mixture of protease inhibitors that significantly reduce nonspecific serum and cellular backgrounds. The assays were used to determine EC(50) values for the specific proteasome inhibitors epoxomicin and bortezomib for each of the catalytic sites using a variety of cancer lines. These cell-based proteasome assays are direct, simple, and sensitive, making them ideal for high-throughput screening.