The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21Cip1 has important roles in the control of cell proliferation, differentiation, senescence, and apoptosis. It has been observed that p21 is a highly unstable protein, but the mechanisms of its degradation remained unknown. We show here that p21 is a good substrate for an SCF (Skp1-Cullin1-F-box protein) ubiquitin ligase complex, which contains the F-box protein Skp2 (S phase kinase-associated protein 2) and the accessory protein Cks1 (cyclin kinase subunit 1). A similar ubiquitin ligase complex has been previously shown to be involved in the degradation of a related cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, p27Kip1. The levels of Skp2 oscillate in the cell cycle, reaching a maximum in S phase. The ubiquitylation of p21 in vitro required the supplementation of all components of the SCF complex as well as of Cks1 and Cdk2-cyclin E. The protein kinase Cdk2-cyclin E acts both by the phosphorylation of p21 on Ser-130 and by the formation of a complex with p21, which is required for its presentation to the ubiquitin ligase. As opposed to the case of p27, the phosphorylation of p21 stimulates its ubiquitylation but is not absolutely required for this process. Levels of p21 are higher in Skp2-/- mouse embryo fibroblasts than in wild-type fibroblasts in the S phase, and the rates of the degradation of p21 are slower in cells that lack Skp2. It is suggested that SCFSkp2 participates in the degradation of p21 in the S phase.