The proliferation of eukaryotic cells is a highly regulated process that depends on the precise duplication of chromosomal DNA in each cell cycle. Regulation of the replication licensing system, which promotes the assembly of complexes of proteins termed Mcm2-7 onto replication origins, is responsible for preventing re-replication of DNA in a single cell cycle. Recent work has shown how the licensing system is directly controlled by cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs). Repression of origin licensing is emerging as a ubiquitous route by which the proliferative capacity of cells is lowered, and Mcm2-Mcm7 proteins show promise as diagnostic markers of early cancer stages. These results have prompted us to propose a functional distinction between the proliferative state and the non-proliferative state (including G0) depending on whether origins are licensed.