Small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) family proteins regulate target-protein functions by post-translational modification. However, a potent and selective inhibitor targeting the SUMO pathway has been lacking. Here we describe ML-792, a mechanism-based SUMO-activating enzyme (SAE) inhibitor with nanomolar potency in cellular assays. ML-792 selectively blocks SAE enzyme activity and total SUMOylation, thus decreasing cancer cell proliferation. Moreover, we found that induction of the MYC oncogene increased the ML-792-mediated viability effect in cancer cells, thus indicating a potential application of SAE inhibitors in treating MYC-amplified tumors. Using ML-792, we further explored the critical roles of SUMOylation in mitotic progression and chromosome segregation. Furthermore, expression of an SAE catalytic-subunit (UBA2) S95N M97T mutant rescued SUMOylation loss and the mitotic defect induced by ML-792, thus confirming the selectivity of ML-792. As a potent and selective SAE inhibitor, ML-792 provides rapid loss of endogenously SUMOylated proteins, thereby facilitating novel insights into SUMO biology.