Organisms acclimate to a continually fluctuating nutrient environment. Acclimation involves responses specific for the limiting nutrient as well as responses that are more general and occur when an organism experiences different stress conditions. Specific responses enable organisms to efficiently scavenge the limiting nutrient and may involve the induction of high-affinity transport systems and the synthesis of hydrolytic enzymes that facilitate the release of the nutrient from extracellular organic molecules or from internal reserves. General responses include changes in cell division rates and global alterations in metabolic activities. In photosynthetic organisms there must be precise regulation of photosynthetic activity since when severe nutrient limitation prevents continued cell growth, excitation of photosynthetic pigments could result in the formation of reactive oxygen species, which can severely damage structural and functional features of the cell. This review focuses on ways that photosynthetic eukaryotes assimilate the macronutrients nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus, and the mechanisms that govern assimilatory activities. Also discussed are molecular responses to macronutrient limitation and the elicitation of those responses through integration of environmental and cellular cues.