Posttranslational histone modifications play a crucial role in the regulation of chromatin structure and gene activity. In previous studies, we identified the histone H2A ubiquitin ligase as Ring2, together in a complex with Ring1, Bmi1, and HPH2 (human polyhomeotic 2). We report here that the oncogene Bmi1 stimulates H2A ubiquitylation both in vitro and in vivo and that Bmi1-regulated H2A ubiquitylation is required for Hox gene silencing and normal cell growth. Our studies indicate that Bmi1 maintains the integrity of the complex through simultaneous interactions with the other subunits. We reconstituted the functional human H2A ubiquitin ligase complex and a panel of subcomplexes of different subunits. Comparisons of the H2A ubiquitin ligase activities of these different complexes revealed that Bmi1 stimulates the H2A ubiquitin ligase activity of Ring2 (and Ring1). Additionally, we demonstrated that the HoxC5 gene is regulated by ubiquitylated H2A in HeLa cells and that ubiquitylated H2A is localized on 5′ regulatory regions of the HoxC5 gene. The role of Bmi1 in H2A ubiquitylation and HoxC5 gene expression in vivo was analyzed by RNA interference experiments. Knockdown of Bmi1 causes a global and loci-specific loss of H2A ubiquitylation, up-regulation of the HoxC5 gene, and slower cell growth. Intriguingly, Ring2 binds to its target regions in Bmi1 knockdown cells. Therefore, our studies reveal that Bmi1 is required for H2A ubiquitylation and suggest that H2A ubiquitylation regulates Bmi1-mediated gene expression. © 2006 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.