Under conditions of nutrient deprivation or stress, or as cells enter stationary phase, Escherichia coli and related bacteria increase the accumulation of RpoS, a specialized sigma factor. RpoS-dependent gene expression leads to general stress resistance of cells. During rapid growth, RpoS translation is inhibited and any RpoS protein that is synthesized is rapidly degraded. The complex transition from exponential growth to stationary phase has been partially dissected by analyzing the induction of RpoS after specific stress treatments. Different stress conditions lead to induction of specific sRNAs that stimulate RpoS translation or to induction of small-protein antiadaptors that stabilize the protein. Recent progress has led to a better, but still far from complete, understanding of how stresses lead to RpoS induction and what RpoS-dependent genes help the cell deal with the stress.