Background: The proteasome inhibitor bortezomib can inhibit activation of the transcription factor NF-κB, a mechanism implicated in its anti-neoplastic effects observed in mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). However, NF-κB can be activated through many distinct mechanisms, including proteasome independent pathways. While MCL cells have been shown to harbor constitutive NF-κB activity, what fraction of this activity in primary MCL samples is sensitive or resistant to inhibition by bortezomib remains unclear. Results: Proteasome activity in the EBV-negative MCL cell lines Jeko-1 and Rec-1 is inhibited by greater than 80% after exposure to 20 nM bortezomib for 4 hours. This treatment decreased NF-κB activity in Jeko-1 cells, but failed to do so in Rec-1 cells when assessed by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). Concurrently, Rec-1 cells were more resistant to the cytotoxic effects of bortezomib than Jeko-1 cells. Consistent with a proteasome inhibitor resistant pathway of activation described in mouse B-lymphoma cells (WEHI231) and a breast carcinoma cell line (MDA-MB-468), the bortezomib-resistant NF-κB activity in Rec-1 cells is inhibited by calcium chelators, calmodulin inhibitors, and perillyl alcohol, a monoterpene capable of blocking L-type calcium channels. Importantly, the combination of perillyl alcohol and bortezomib is synergistic in eliciting Rec-1 cell cytotoxicity. The relevance of these results is illuminated by the additional finding that a considerable fraction of primary MCL samples (8 out of 10) displayed bortezomib-resistant constitutive NF-κB activity. Conclusion: Our findings show that bortezomib-resistant NF-κB activity is frequently observed in MCL samples and suggest that this activity may be relevant to MCL biology as well as serve as a potential therapeutic target.