Clp proteolytic complexes consisting of a proteolytic core flanked by Clp ATPases are widely conserved in bacteria, and their biological roles have received considerable interest. In particular, mutants in the clp genes in the low-GC-content Gram-positive phyla Bacillales and Lactobacillales display a diverse range of phenotypic changes including general stress sensitivity, aberrant cell morphology, failure to initiate developmental programs, and for pathogens, severely attenuated virulence. Extensive research dedicated to unravelling the molecular mechanisms underlying these complex phenotypes has led to fascinating new insights that will be covered by this review. First, Clp ATPases and ClpP-containing proteolytic complexes play indispensable roles in cellular protein quality control systems by refolding or degrading damaged proteins in both stressed and non-stressed cells. Secondly, ClpP proteases and the chaperone activity of Clp ATPases are important for controlling stability and activity of central transcriptional regulators, thereby exerting tremendous impact on cell physiology. Targets include major stress regulators like Spx (oxidative stress), the antisigma factor RsiW (alkaline stress) and HdiR (DNA damage) in addition to regulators of developmental programs like ComK (competence development), σH and Sda (sporulation). Thus, Clp proteins are central in co-ordinating developmental decisions and stress response in low GC Gram-positive bacteria.