Ubiquitylation is a major posttranslational modification that controls most complex aspects of cell physiology. It is reversed through the action of a large family of deubiquitylating enzymes (DUBs) that are emerging as attractive therapeutic targets for a number of disease conditions. Here, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the complement of human DUBs, indicating structural motifs, typical cellular copy numbers, and tissue expression profiles. We discuss the means by which specificity is achieved and how DUB activity may be regulated. Generically DUB catalytic activity may be used to 1) maintain free ubiquitin levels, 2) rescue proteins from ubiquitin-mediated degradation, and 3) control the dynamics of ubiquitin-mediated signaling events. Functional roles of individual DUBs from each of five subfamilies in specific cellular processes are highlighted with an emphasis on those linked to pathological conditions where the association is supported by whole organism models. We then specifically consider the role of DUBs associated with protein degradative machineries and the influence of specific DUBs upon expression of receptors and channels at the plasma membrane.