This paper describes the purification and properties of a multicatalytic proteinase complex, proteasome, from rabbit skeletal muscle, and its effect on myofibrillar structure. The purified proteasome gave a single band on polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis under non-denaturing conditions and gave eight bands under denaturing conditions, indicating that this enzyme comprises multiple hetero-subunits with low molecular mass. The purified proteasome was not activated by ATP and ubiquitin, and was markedly inhibited by Z-Leu-Leu-Leu-H (aldehyde). These data indicate that the purified proteasome is not 26S, but 20S. The proteasome degraded synthetic peptides maximally at pH 8.0. Relative to pH 8.0, activities were gradually decreased with the lowering of pH, but the degree of decrease was substrate-dependent, and the activity at pH 5.0 still retained about 30~60% of the activity at pH 8.0, indicating the possibility that the proteasome is active in the muscle during conditioning. When the proteasome was heated at 60 °C for 20 min and treated in the presence of 0.005% SDS, the activity increased over 1.5 and 4.5 times, respectively. SDS remarkably increased the V(max) value of the enzyme at pH 8.0. The proteasome was also activated by high hydrostatic pressure up to 100~150 M Pa and gradually decreased at 200 MPa or higher. Electron microscopic observation revealed that obvious gaps between filamentous structure, the complete loss of M-line and partial loss of Z-line structure were caused by proteasome.