The intrinsic ability of cells to adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions is a fundamental process required for survival. Potassium is the most abundant cation in living cells and is required for essential cellular processes, including the regulation of cell volume, pH and protein synthesis. Yeast cells can grow from low micromolar to molar potassium concentrations and utilize sophisticated control mechanisms to keep the internal potassium concentration in a viable range. We developed a mathematical model for Saccharomyces cerevisiae to explore the complex interplay between biophysical forces and molecular regulation facilitating potassium homeostasis. By using a novel inference method ("the reverse tracking algorithm") we predicted and then verified experimentally that the main regulators under conditions of potassium starvation are proton fluxes responding to changes of potassium concentrations. In contrast to the prevailing view, we show that regulation of the main potassium transport systems (Trk1,2 and Nha1) in the plasma membrane is not sufficient to achieve homeostasis. © 2012 Kahm et al.