The 2004 Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery of protein ubiquitination has led to the recognition of cellular proteolysis as a central area of research in biology. Eukaryotic proteins targeted for degradation by this pathway are first ‘tagged’ by multimers of a protein known as ubiquitin and are later proteolyzed by a giant enzyme known as the proteasome. This article recounts the key observations that led to the discovery of ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS). In addition, different aspects of proteasome biology are highlighted. Finally, some key roles of the UPS in different areas of biology and the use of inhibitors of this pathway as possible drug targets are discussed.