Regulating responses to stress is critical for all bacteria, whether they are environmental, commensal, or pathogenic species. For pathogenic bacteria, successful colonization and survival in the host are dependent on adaptation to diverse conditions imposed by the host tissue architecture and the immune response. Once the bacterium senses a hostile environment, it must enact a change in physiology that contributes to the organism's survival strategy. Inappropriate responses have consequences; hence, the execution of the appropriate response is essential for survival of the bacterium in its niche. Stress responses are most often regulated at the level of gene expression and, more specifically, transcription. This minireview focuses on mechanisms of regulating transcription initiation that are required by Mycobacterium tuberculosis to respond to the arsenal of defenses imposed by the host during infection. In particular, we highlight how certain features of M. tuberculosis physiology allow this pathogen to respond swiftly and effectively to host defenses. By enacting highly integrated and coordinated gene expression changes in response to stress, M. tuberculosis is prepared for battle against the host defense and able to persist within the human population.