The 20S proteasome functions in protein degradation in eukaryotes together with the 19S ATPases or in archaea with the homologous PAN ATPase complex. These ATPases contain a conserved C-terminal hydrophobic-tyrosine-X motif (HbYX). We show that these residues are essential for PAN to associate with the 20S and open its gated channel for substrate entry. Upon ATP binding, these C-terminal residues bind to pockets between the 20S's alpha subunits. Seven-residue or longer peptides from PAN's C terminus containing the HbYX motif also bind to these sites and induce gate opening in the 20S. Gate opening could be induced by C-terminal peptides from the 19S ATPase subunits, Rpt2, and Rpt5, but not by ones from PA28/26, which lack the HbYX motif and cause gate opening by distinct mechanisms. C-terminal residues in the 19S ATPases were also shown to be critical for gating and stability of 26S proteasomes. Thus, the C termini of the proteasomal ATPases function like a "key in a lock" to induce gate opening and allow substrate entry.