One of the strongest and most noticeable responses of Bacillus subtilis cells to a range of stress and starvation stimuli is the dramatic induction of about 150 SigB-dependent general stress genes. The activity of SigB itself is tightly regulated by a complex signal transduction cascade with at least three main signaling pathways that respond to environmental stress, energy depletion, or low temperature. The SigB-dependent response is conserved in related gram-positive bacteria but is missing in strictly anaerobic or in some facultatively anaerobic gram-positive bacteria. It covers functions from nonspecific and multiple stress resistance to the control of virulence in pathogenic bacteria. A comprehensive understanding of this crucial stress response is essential not only for bacterial physiology but also for applied microbiology, including pathogenicity and pathogen control.