Organic light-emitting transistors, three-terminal devices combining a thin-film transistor with a light-emitting diode, have generated increasing interest in organic electronics. However, increasing their efficiency while keeping the operating voltage low still remains a key challenge. Here, we demonstrate organic permeable base light-emitting transistors; these three-terminal vertical optoelectronic devices operate at driving voltages below 5.0 V; emit in the red, green and blue ranges; and reach, respectively, peak external quantum efficiencies of 19.6%, 24.6% and 11.8%, current efficiencies of 20.6 cd A–1, 90.1 cd A–1 and 27.1 cd A–1 and maximum luminance values of 9,833 cd m–2, 12,513 cd m–2 and 4,753 cd m–2. Our simulations demonstrate that the nano-pore permeable base electrode located at the centre of the device, which forms a distinctive optical microcavity and regulates charge carrier injection and transport, is the key to the good performance obtained. Our work paves the way towards efficient and low-voltage organic light-emitting transistors, useful for power-efficient active matrix displays and solid-state lighting.