Bacteria sense and respond to a wide range of physical and chemical signals. Central to sensing and responding to these signals are two-component systems, which have a sensor histidine kinase (SK) and a response regulator (RR) as basic components. Here we review the different molecular mechanisms by which these signals are integrated and modulate the phosphorylation state of SKs. Apart from the basic mechanism, which consists of signal recognition by the SK that leads to an alteration of its autokinase activity and subsequently a change in the RR phosphorylation state, a variety of alternative modes have evolved. The biochemical data available on SKs, particularly their molecular interactions with signals, nucleotides, and their cognate RRs, are also reviewed.