During the illumination of dark-grown barley plants light induces a rapid decrease of a translatable mRNA which codes for a polypeptide of Mr 44000. This component was identified as a precursor of the NADPH:protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase. The precursor has an Mr larger than the authentic protein by approximately 8000. The light-induced change in the level of translatable mRNA can be induced by a 15-s red-light pulse followed by 5 h of darkness. The red-light effect is reversed by a subsequent far-red-light treatment. It is concluded that the light-induced decline of translatable mRNA for the NADPH:protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase is controlled by phytochrome. The significance of this finding for present concepts of light-dependent control of chloroplast development and chlorophyll synthesis is discussed.