In eukaryotic cells, ubiquitination of proteins leads to their degradation by the 26S proteasome. We tested if the ubiquitin (Ub) chain also regulates the proteasome's capacity for proteolysis. After incubation with polyubiquitinated proteins, 26S proteasomes hydrolyzed peptides and proteins 2- to 7-fold faster. Ub conjugates enhanced peptide hydrolysis by stimulating gate opening in the 20S proteasome. This stimulation was seen when this gate was closed or transiently open, but not maximally open. Gate opening requires conjugate association with Usp14/Ubp6 and also occurs if Ub aldehyde occupies this isopeptidase's active site. No stimulation was observed with 26S from Ubp6Delta mutants, but this effect was restored upon addition of Usp14/Ubp6 (even an inactive Ubp6). The stimulation of gate opening by Ub conjugates through Usp14/Ubp6 requires nucleotide binding to the gate-regulatory ATPases. This activation enhances the selectivity of the 26S proteasome for ubiquitinated proteins and links their deubiquitination to their degradation.