Proteasome inhibition is an effective therapy for multiple myeloma (MM) patients; however, the emergence of drug resistance is common. Novel therapeutic strategies to overcome proteasome inhibitor resistance are needed. In this study, we examined whether targeting deubiquitylating (DUB) enzymes upstream of 20S proteasome overcomes proteasome inhibitor resistance. Gene expression analysis, immunohistochemical studies of MM patient bone marrow, reverse transcription-PCR and protein analysis show that Rpn11/POH1, a DUB enzyme upstream of 20S proteasome, is more highly expressed in patient MM cells than in normal plasma cells. Importantly, Rpn11 expression directly correlates with poor patient survival. Loss-of-function studies show that Rpn11-siRNA knockdown decreases MM cell viability. Pharmacological inhibition of Rpn11 with O-phenanthroline (OPA) blocks cellular proteasome function, induces apoptosis in MM cells and overcomes resistance to proteasome inhibitor bortezomib. Mechanistically, Rpn11 inhibition in MM cells activates caspase cascade and endoplasmic stress response signaling. Human MM xenograft model studies demonstrate that OPA treatment reduces progression of tumor growth and prolongs survival in mice. Finally, blockade of Rpn11 increases the cytotoxic activity of anti-MM agents lenalidomide, pomalidomide or dexamethasone. Overall, our preclinical data provide the rationale for targeting DUB enzyme Rpn11 upstream of 20S proteasome to enhance cytotoxicity and overcome proteasome inhibitor resistance in MM.