Normal human diploid fibroblasts (HDF) have a finite proliferative life-span at the end of which they are arrested with a G1 phase DNA content regardless of the culture conditions. Serum stimulated senescent HDF fail to phosphorylate their retinoblastoma protein (pRb) and consequently do not express a large cohort of late G1 phase genes whose products are necessary for entry into S phase. Because pRb is believed to be phosphorylated sequentially in G1 phase by cyclin D-CDK4/6 and cyclin E-CDK2 complexes, we and others have investigated the status of these complexes in senescent HDF. There is little or no cyclin E-associated kinase activity in senescent IMR90 even though potentially active cyclin E-CDK2 complexes are present, suggesting the presence of an inhibitor. Likewise, cyclin D is complexed with its catalytic partners CDK4 and CDK6 in senescent HDF, but it is not known whether these complexes are active. p21Sdi1,Cip1,Waf1, a ubiquitous inhibitor of the activity of cyclin-CDK complexes, increases progressively throughout the life-span of HDF, but then declines again after the cells become senescent. In contrast, p16Ink4a, which binds monomeric CDK4 and CDK6 thereby preventing their binding to cyclin D, is increased dramatically at the time of senescence and remains high for at least 2 mo. Thus, it is possible that increased p21 initiates the senescent cell cycle arrest in normal cells, but p16 is important for the long-term maintenance of that arrest.