Trehalose 6-P (T6P) is a sugar signal in plants that inhibits SNF1-related protein kinase, SnRK1, thereby altering gene expression and promoting growth processes. This provides a model for the regulation of growth by sugar. However, it is not known how this model operates under sink-limited conditions when tissue sugar content is uncoupled from growth. To test the physiological importance of this model, T6P, SnRK1 activities, sugars, gene expression, and growth were measured in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) seedlings after transfer to cold or zero nitrogen compared with sugar feeding under optimal conditions. Maximum in vitro activities of SnRK1 changed little, but T6P accumulated up to 55-fold, correlating with tissue Suc content in all treatments. SnRK1-induced and -repressed marker gene expression strongly related to T6P above and below a threshold of 0.3 to 0.5 nmol T6P g(-1) fresh weight close to the dissociation constant (4 mu M) of the T6P/ SnRK1 complex. This occurred irrespective of the growth response to Suc. This implies that T6P is not a growth signal per se, but through SnRK1, T6P primes gene expression for growth in response to Suc accumulation under sink-limited conditions. To test this hypothesis, plants with genetically decreased T6P content and SnRK1 overexpression were transferred from cold to warm to analyze the role of T6P/SnRK1 in relief of growth restriction. Compared with the wild type, these plants were impaired in immediate growth recovery. It is concluded that the T6P/SnRK1 signaling pathway responds to Suc induced by sink restriction that enables growth recovery following relief of limitations such as low temperature.