The transcriptional response to environmental changes is a major topic in both basic and applied research. From a basic point of view, to understand this response includes unravelling how the stress signal is sensed and transduced to the nucleus, to identify which genes are induced under each stress condition and, finally, to establish the phenotypic consequences of this induction in stress tolerance. The possibility of using genetic approaches has made the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae a compelling model to study stress response at a molecular level. Moreover, this information can be used to isolate and characterise stress-related proteins in higher eukaryotes and to design strategies to increase stress resistance in organisms of industrial interest. In this review the progress made in recent years is discussed.