The intracellular ubiquitin-proteasome system is a key regulator of cellular processes involved in the controlled degradation of short-living or malfunctioning proteins. Certain diseases and cellular dysfunctions are known to arise from the disruption of proteasome pathways. Trace metals are recognized stressors of the proteasome system in vertebrates and plants, but their effects on the proteasome of invertebrates are not well understood. Since marine invertebrates, and particularly benthic crustaceans, can be exposed to high metal levels, we studied the effects of in vitro exposure to Hg2 +, Zn2 +, Cu2 +, and Cd2 + on the activities of the proteasome from the claw muscles of lobsters (Homarus gammarus) and crabs (Cancer pagurus). The chymotrypsin like activity of the proteasome of these two species showed different sensitivity to metals. In lobsters the activity was significantly inhibited by all metals to a similar extent. In crabs the activities were severely suppressed only by Hg2 + and Cu2 + while Zn2 + had only a moderate effect and Cd2 + caused almost no inhibition of the crab proteasome. This indicates that the proteasomes of both species possess structural characteristics that determine different susceptibility to metals. Consequently, the proteasome-mediated protein degradation in crab C. pagurus may be less affected by metal pollution than that of the lobster H. gammarus.