Many complex biological programs are controlled at the level of gene transcription by DNA binding transcription factors. Recent studies have revealed a novel mode of regulation by coactivator proteins, best illustrated by the PGC-1 family of coactivators. These factors are highly responsive to a variety of environmental cues, from temperature to nutritional status to physical activity, and they coordinately regulate metabolic pathways and biological processes in a tissue-specific manner. Notably, the PGC-1 coactivators play a critical role in the maintenance of glucose, lipid, and energy homeostasis and are likely involved in the pathogenic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, neurodegeneration, and cardiomyopathy. These actions also raise new opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics.