In eukaryotic cells, G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), non-transporting nutrient carrier homologues and active nutrient carriers have been recently shown to function as sensors that directly monitor the level of nutrients in the extracellular environment. The plasma membrane is not only the cellular boundary at which signalling molecules that govern metabolism and proliferation are detected, but also the boundary across which nutrients that sustain the generation of energy and building blocks are transported. Nutrient sensors combine these functions in various ways. Classical receptor proteins detect the presence of nutrients, carriers combine the functions of nutrient transporters and receptors, and carrier homologues have lost their transport capacity and become pure receptors. The activation of signal transduction pathways by nutrients adds a new layer to the regulatory network that controls metabolism and proliferation. Nutrient sensors highlight the importance of both nutrients as signalling molecules and nutrient carriers as receptors for signalling pathways.