Semisynthetic, mechanism-based protein inhibitors of ubiquitin (Ub) and ubiquitin-like modifier (Ubl) activating enzymes (E1s) have been developed to target E1-catalyzed adenylation and thioesterification of the Ub/Ubl C-terminus during the processes of protein SUMOylation and ubiquitination. The inhibitors were generated by intein-mediated expressed protein ligation using a truncated Ub/Ubl protein (SUMO residues 1-94; Ub residues 1-71) with a C-terminal thioester and synthetic tripeptides having a C-terminal adenosine analogue and an N-terminal cysteine residue. SUMO-AMSN (4a) and Ub-AMSN (4b) contain a sulfamide group as a nonhydrolyzable mimic of the phosphate group in the cognate Ub/Ubl-AMP adenylate intermediate in the first half-reaction, and these constructs selectively inhibit SUMO E1 and Ub E1, respectively, in a dose-dependent manner. SUMO-AVSN (5a) and Ub-AVSN (5b) contain an electrophilic vinyl sulfonamide designed to trap the incoming E1 cysteine nucleophile (Uba2 Cys173 in SUMO E1; Uba1 Cys593 in Ub E1) in the second half-reaction, and these constructs selectively, covalently, and stably cross-link to SUMO E1 and Ub E1, respectively, in a cysteine nucleophile-dependent manner. These inhibitors are powerful tools to probe outstanding mechanistic questions in E1 function and can also be used to study the biological functions of E1 enzymes.