Syrbactins belong to a new class of proteasome inhibitors which include syringolins and glidobactins. These small molecules are structurally distinct from other, well-established proteasome inhibitors, and bind the eukaryotic 20S proteasome by a novel mechanism. In this study, we examined the effects of syringolin A (SylA) and glidobactin A (GlbA) as well as two synthetic SylA-analogs (SylA-PEG and SylA-LIP) in human neuroblastoma (SK-N-SH), human multiple myeloma (MM1.S, MM1.RL, and U266), and human ovarian cancer (SKOV-3) cells. While all four syrbactins inhibited cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner, GlbA was most potent in both dexamethasone-sensitive MM1.S cells (IC(50): 0.004microM) and dexamethasone-resistant MM1.RL cells (IC(50): 0.005microM). Syrbactins also inhibited the chymotrypsin-like proteasome activity in a dose-dependent fashion, and GlbA was most effective in SK-N-SH cells (IC(50): 0.015microM). The GlbA-promoted inhibition of proteasomal activity in SK-N-SH cells resulted in the accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins and tumor suppressor protein p53 and led to apoptotic cell death in a time-dependent manner. GlbA treatment also promoted the activation of Akt/PKB via phosphorylation at residue Ser(473) and induced autophagy as judged by the presence of the lipidated form of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) and autophagosomes. Collectively, our data suggest that syrbactins belong to a new and effective proteasome inhibitor class which promotes cell death. Proteasome inhibition is a promising strategy for targeted anticancer therapy and syrbactins are a new class of inhibitors which provide a structural platform for the development of novel, proteasome inhibitor-based drug therapeutics.