Heterotrophic organisms rely on the ingestion of organic molecules or nutrients from the environment to sustain energy and biomass production. Non-motile, unicellular organisms have a limited ability to store nutrients or to take evasive action, and are therefore most directly dependent on the availability of nutrients in their immediate surrounding. Such organisms have evolved numerous developmental options in order to adapt to and to survive the permanently changing nutritional status of the environment. The phenotypical, physiological and molecular nature of nutrient-induced cellular adaptations has been most extensively studied in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These studies have revealed a network of sensing mechanisms and of signalling pathways that generate and transmit the information on the nutritional status of the environment to the cellular machinery that implements specific developmental programmes. This review integrates our current knowledge on nutrient sensing and signalling in S. cerevisiae, and suggests how an integrated signalling network may lead to the establishment of a specific developmental programme, namely pseudohyphal differentiation and invasive growth.