We have studied specific effects of proteasome inhibition on cell cycle progression. To this end, the protease inhibitors MG115, calpain inhibitor I, and calpain inhibitor II, which display differential inhibitory effects on proteasomes, were used. Cell kinetic studies using bromodeoxyuridine pulse labeling revealed a complete block of G1/S and metaphase transitions and a delayed progression through S phase in cell cultures treated with 54 microM of MG115. Calpain inhibitor I in similar concentrations displayed a fivefold lower effect on cell cycle kinetics. Calpain inhibitor II and MG2M, which is a structural analogue of MG115, had no effect on the cell cycle. The inhibitory effect of MG115 treatment was reversible, because the cell cycle was immediately resumed when the MG115-containing culture medium was replaced by fresh culture medium. Because ubiquitinated proteins accumulated after MG115 treatment, it was confirmed that ubiquitin-dependent protein degradation, and thus proteasomal activity were blocked. By comparison of biochemical and in vitro proteasome inhibition experiments, it was hypothesized that chymotrypsin-like activity of proteasomes may play an important role in cell cycle kinetics.