- The COP9 signalosome (CSN) is an evolutionarily conserved multi-protein complex that interfaces with the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway and plays critical developmental roles in both animals and plants. Although some subunits are present only in an ∼320-kDa complex-dependent form, other subunits are also detected in configurations distinct from the 8-subunit holocomplex. To date, the only known biochemical activity intrinsic to the complex, deneddylation of the Cullin subunits from Cullin-RING ubiquitin ligases, is assigned to CSN5. As an essential step to understanding the structure and assembly of a CSN5-containing subcomplex of the CSN, we reconstituted a CSN4-5-6-7 subcomplex. The core of the subcomplex is based on a stable heterotrimeric association of CSN7, CSN4, and CSN6, requiring coexpression in a bacterial reconstitution system. To this heterotrimer, we could then add CSN5 in vitro to reconstitute a quaternary complex. Using biochemical and biophysical methods, we identified pairwise and combinatorial interactions necessary for the formation of the CSN4-5-6-7 subcomplex. The subcomplex is stabilized by three types of interactions: MPN-MPN between CSN5 and CSN6, PCI-PCI between CSN4 and CSN7, and interactions mediated through the CSN6 C terminus with CSN4 and CSN7. CSN8 was also found to interact with the CSN4-6-7 core. These data provide a strong framework for further investigation of the organization and assembly of this pivotal regulatory complex.