Microbial adaptation to environmental stress plays an important role in survival. It is necessary to understand the mechanisms underlying the survival of microbes under stress, as they may eventually aid in the successful control of the growth and persistence of these organisms. During nutrient starvation, Escherichia coli elicits a stringent response to conserve energy. The hallmark of the stringent response is the accumulation of guanosine tetra- (ppGpp) and pentaphosphates (pppGpp), which probably bind RNA polymerase to regulate gene expression at certain promoters. Recently, there has been renewed interest in the stringent responses of other microbes, with a view to correlating it with sporulation, virulence and long-term persistence.