All living organisms contain tetrapyrroles. In plants, chlorophyll (chlorophyll a plus chlorophyll b) is the most abundant and probably most important tetrapyrrole. It is involved in light absorption and energy transduction during photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is synthesized from the intact carbon skeleton of glutamate via the C5 pathway. This pathway takes place in the chloroplast. It is the aim of this review to summarize the current knowledge on the biochemistry and molecular biology of the C5-pathway enzymes, their regulated expression in response to light, and the impact of chlorophyll biosynthesis on chloroplast development. Particular emphasis will be placed on the key regulatory steps of chlorophyll biosynthesis in higher plants, such as 5-aminolevulinic acid formation, the production of Mg(2+)-protoporphyrin IX, and light-dependent protochlorophyllide reduction.