A family of anti-apoptotic regulators known as IAP (inhibitor of apoptosis) proteins interact with multiple cellular partners and inhibit apoptosis induced by a variety of stimuli. c-IAP (cellular IAP) 1 and 2 are recruited to TNFR1 (tumour necrosis factor receptor 1)-associated signalling complexes, where they mediate receptor-induced NF-kappaB (nuclear factor kappaB) activation. Additionally, through their E3 ubiquitin ligase activities, c-IAP1 and c-IAP2 promote proteasomal degradation of NIK (NF-kappaB-inducing kinase) and regulate the non-canonical NF-kappaB pathway. In the present paper, we describe a novel ubiquitin-binding domain of IAPs. The UBA (ubiquitin-associated) domain of IAPs is located between the BIR (baculovirus IAP repeat) domains and the CARD (caspase activation and recruitment domain) or the RING (really interesting new gene) domain of c-IAP1 and c-IAP2 or XIAP (X-linked IAP) respectively. The c-IAP1 UBA domain binds mono-ubiquitin and Lys(48)- and Lys(63)-linked polyubiquitin chains with low-micromolar affinities as determined by surface plasmon resonance or isothermal titration calorimetry. NMR analysis of the c-IAP1 UBA domain-ubiquitin interaction reveals that this UBA domain binds the classical hydrophobic patch surrounding Ile(44) of ubiquitin. Mutations of critical amino acid residues in the highly conserved MGF (Met-Gly-Phe) binding loop of the UBA domain completely abrogate ubiquitin binding. These mutations in the UBA domain do not overtly affect the ubiquitin ligase activity of c-IAP1 or the participation of c-IAP1 and c-IAP2 in the TNFR1 signalling complex. Treatment of cells with IAP antagonists leads to proteasomal degradation of c-IAP1 and c-IAP2. Deletion or mutation of the UBA domain decreases this degradation, probably by diminishing the interaction of the c-IAPs with the proteasome. These results suggest that ubiquitin binding may be an important mechanism for rapid turnover of auto-ubiquitinated c-IAP1 and c-IAP2.