We developed and implemented a reconstituted system to screen for modulators of the ubiquitination of proliferating cell nuclear antigen, a process that activates pathways of DNA damage tolerance and drug resistance. We identified the primary putatively health-beneficial green tea polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and certain related small molecules as potent inhibitors of ubiquitination. EGCG directly and reversibly targets the ubiquitin-activating enzyme Uba1, blocking formation of the Uba1~ubiquitin thioester conjugate and thus ubiquitination and in the cell. Structure-activity relationship profiles across multiple biochemical and cellular assays for a battery of EGCG analogues revealed distinct chemical and mechanism-of-action clusters of molecules, with catechin gallates, alkyl gallates, and myricetin potently inhibiting ubiquitination. This study defines a number of related though distinct first-in-class inhibitors of ubiquitination, each series with its own unique activity pattern and mechanistic signature.