DNA has emerged as a highly versatile construction material for nanometer-sized structures and sophisticated molecular machines and circuits. The successful application of nucleic acid based systems greatly relies on their ability to autonomously sense and act on their environment. In this feature article, the development of DNA-based strategies to dynamically control protein activity via oligonucleotide triggers is discussed. Depending on the desired application, protein activity can be controlled by directly conjugating them to an oligonucleotide handle, or expressing them as a fusion protein with DNA binding motifs. To control proteins without modifying them chemically or genetically, multivalent ligands and aptamers that reversibly inhibit their function provide valuable tools to regulate proteins in a noncovalent manner. The goal of this feature article is to give an overview of strategies developed to control protein activity via oligonucleotide-based triggers, as well as hurdles yet to be taken to obtain fully autonomous systems that interrogate, process and act on their environments by means of DNA-based protein control.