Cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) sensors have facilitated investigations of the cell cycle in living cells. These genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors change their subcellular location upon activation of CDKs. Activation is primarily regulated by their association with cyclins, which in turn trigger cell-cycle progression. In the absence of CDK activity, cells exit the cell cycle and become quiescent, a key step in stem cell maintenance and cancer cell dormancy. The evolutionary conservation of CDKs has allowed for the rapid development of CDK activity sensors for cell lines and several research organisms, including nematodes, fish, and flies. CDK activity sensors are utilized for their ability to visualize the exact moment of cell-cycle commitment. This has provided a breakthrough in understanding the proliferation-quiescence decision. Further adoption of these biosensors will usher in new discoveries focused on the cell-cycle regulation of development, ageing, and cancer.

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