The mechanism involved in the cellular phosphate response of Saccharomyces cerevisiae forms part of the PHO pathway, which upon expression allows a co-ordinated cellular response and adaptation to changes in availability of external phosphate. Although genetic studies and analyses of the S. cerevisiae genome have produced much information on the components of the PHO pathway, little is known about how cells sense the environmental phosphate level and the mechanistic regulation of phosphate acquisition. Recent studies emphasize different levels in phosphate sensing and signalling in response to external phosphate fluctuations. This review integrates all these findings into a model involving rapid and long-term effects of phosphate sensing and signalling in S. cerevisiae. The model describes in particular how yeast cells are able to adjust phosphate acquisition by integrating the status of the intracellular phosphate pools together with the extracellular phosphate concentration.