The proteasome is an intracellular protease complex consisting of the 20S catalytic core and its associated regulators, including the 19S complex, PA28αβ, PA28γ, PA200 and PI31. Inhibition of the proteasome induces autoregulatory de novo formation of 20S and 26S proteasome complexes. Formation of alternative proteasome complexes, however, has not been investigated so far. We here show that catalytic proteasome inhibition results in fast recruitment of PA28γ and PA200 to 20S and 26S proteasomes within 2-6 h. Rapid formation of alternative proteasome complexes did not involve transcriptional activation of PA28γ and PA200 but rather recruitment of preexisting activators to 20S and 26S proteasome complexes. Recruitment of proteasomal activators depended on the extent of active site inhibition of the proteasome with inhibition of β5 active sites being sufficient for inducing recruitment. Moreover, specific inhibition of 26S proteasome activity via siRNA mediated knockdown of the 19S subunit Rpn6 induced recruitment of only PA200 to 20S proteasomes whereas PA28γ was not mobilized. Here, formation of alternative PA200 complexes involved transcriptional activation of the activator. Alternative proteasome complexes persisted when cells had regained proteasome activity after pulse exposure to proteasome inhibitors. Knockdown of PA28γsensitized cells to proteasome inhibitor-mediated growth arrest. Thus, formation of alternative proteasome complexes appears to be a formerly unrecognized but integral part of the cellular response to impaired proteasome function and altered proteostasis.