To adapt to the surrounding environment, plants constantly monitor and respond to changes in the red and far-red regions of the light spectrum through the phytochrome family of photoreceptors. Extensive efforts using genetic, molecular and photobiological techniques have led to the identification of a group of basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors called the Phytochrome Interacting Factors, PIFs, which directly bind to the photoactivated phytochromes. Members of the PIF family have been shown to control light-regulated gene expression directly and indirectly. PIF1, PIF3, PIF4 and PIF5 are degraded in response to light signals, and physical interaction of PIF3 with phytochromes is necessary for the light-induced phosphorylation and degradation of PIF3. PIFs constitute an excellent model for the investigation of the biochemical mechanisms of signal transfer from photoactivated phytochromes and the light-regulation of gene expression that controls photomorphogenesis in plants.