Each 19S regulator of the 26S proteasome contains six ATPase subunits as well as many (>14) non-ATPase protein subunits. The ATPase subunits have been detected in other complexes which may regulate transcription and possibly other cellular processes. The S10b (yeast SUG2 or human p42) and the S6′ (TBP1) ATPases have been found in an activator complex (modulator) prepared from bovine red cells. We have identified and partially characterised a similar activator from different human tissues (from soluble extracts of human brain, placenta and human embryonic kidney cells) and an insect: an activator is present in soluble extracts of abdominal intersegmental muscle from Manduca sexta. Activation is ATP and concentration dependent. There is no stimulation of human red cell-derived 20S proteasome by the Manduca activator ruling out 11S regulator in the preparations. Additionally, cross-species activation occurs: the Manduca activator increases the activity of rat skeletal muscle 26S proteasomes and the human placental activator similarly increases the activity of 26S proteasomes prepared from muscles from Manduca sexta. Finally, there is no evidence for other ATPases in the activator complex.