The COP9 signalosome (CSN) is a multiprotein complex of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. CSN is typically composed of eight subunits, each of which is related to one of the eight subunits that form the lid of the 26S proteasome regulatory particle. CSN was first identified in Arabidopsis where it is required for the repression of photomorphogenic seedling development in the dark. CSN or CSN-related complexes have by now been reported from most eukaryotic model organisms and CSN has been implicated in a vast array of biological processes. It is widely accepted that CSN directly interacts with cullin-containing E3 ubiquitin ligases, and that CSN is required for their proper function. The requirement of CSN for proper E3 function may at least in part be explained by the observation that CSN subunit 5 (CSN5) is the isopeptidase that deconjugates the essential ubiquitin-like Nedd8 modification from the E3 cullin subunit. In addition to its interaction with E3s, CSN may also regulate proteolysis by its association with protein kinases and deubiquitylating enzymes. This review provides a summary of the role of CSN in regulating protein degradation and in eukaryotic development.