Abstract Degradation of endogenous proteins in five normal and five I-cell (mucolipidosis II) storage disease human fibroblasts was compared. In growing cultures (low density) long half-life proteins were degraded normally in each group of cells. However, the enhancement of proteolysis when confluence is reached, which we have characterised previously as being a lysosomal function, was less in the I-cell fibroblasts. The lysosomotropic agents ammonium chloride, pepstatin and Z-Phe-Ala-diazomethylketone, inhibited similarly proteolysis in growing and confluent cultures of both cell types. Leupeptin depressed proteolysis in both growth states for both cell types, but, whereas it failed to abolish the enhancement of degradation in confluent normal cells, surprisingly it depressed degradation in confluent I-cell fibroblasts to a lower rate than in growing I-cell fibroblasts. In spite of this, the inhibitory effects of ammonium chloride and leupeptin were not additive in either normal or I-cell fibroblasts, indicating that they act upon the same proteolytic mechanism(s). Non-lysosomal mechanisms may degrade short half-life proteins, and it seemed that turnover of such proteins was slower in I-cell fibroblasts. It is suggested that mutual regulation of participating proteolytic pathways may be responsible for the dysfunction of intracellular protein degradation in I-cell fibroblasts.