Recognition of polyubiquitylated substrates by the proteasome is a highly regulated process that requires polyubiquitin receptors. We show here that the concentrations of the proteasomal and extraproteasomal polyubiquitin receptors change in a developmentally regulated fashion. The stoichiometry of the proteasomal p54/Rpn10 polyubiquitin receptor subunit, relative to that of other regulatory particle (RP) subunits falls suddenly at the end of embryogenesis, remains low throughout the larval stages, starts to increase again in the late third instar larvae and remains high in the pupae, adults and embryos. A similar developmentally regulated fluctuation was observed in the concentrations of the Rad23 and Dsk2 extraproteasomal polyubiquitin receptors. Depletion of the polyubiquitin receptors at the end of embryogenesis is due to the emergence of a developmentally regulated selective proteolytic activity. To follow the fate of subunit p54/Rpn10 in vivo, transgenic Drosophila melanogaster lines encoding the N-terminal half (NTH), the C-terminal half (CTH) or the full-length p54/Rpn10 subunit were established in the inducible Gal4-UAS system. The daughterless-Gal4-driven whole-body expression of the full-length subunit or its NTH did not produce any detectable phenotypic changes, and the transgenic products were incorporated into the 26S proteasome. The transgene-encoded CTH was not incorporated into the 26S proteasome, caused third instar larval lethality and was found to be multi-ubiquitylated. This modification, however, did not appear to be a degradation signal because the half-life of the CTH was over 48 hours. Accumulation of the CTH disturbed the developmentally regulated changes in subunit composition of the RP and the emergence of the selective proteolytic activity responsible for the depletion of the polyubiquitin receptors. Build-up of subunit p54/Rpn10 in the RP had already started in 84-hour-old larvae and reached the full complement characteristic of the non-larval developmental stages at the middle of the third instar larval stage, just before these larvae perished. Similar shifts were observed in the concentrations of the Rad23 and Dsk2 polyubiquitin receptors. The postsynthetic modification of CTH might be essential for this developmental regulation, or it might regulate an essential extraproteasomal function(s) of subunit p54/Rpn10 that is disturbed by the expression of an excess of CTH.