Bacterioplankton phylotypes of alpha-Proteobacteria have been detected in various marine regions, but systematic biogeographical studies of their global distribution are missing. Alpha-Proteobacteria comprise one of the largest fractions of heterotrophic marine bacteria and include two clades, SAR11 and Roseobacter, which account for 26 and 16% of 16S ribosomal RNA gene clones retrieved from marine bacterioplankton. The SAR11 clade attracted much interest because related 16S rRNA gene clones were among the first groups of marine bacteria to be identified by cultivation-independent approaches and appear to dominate subtropical surface bacterioplankton communities. Here we report on the global distribution of a newly discovered cluster affiliated to the Roseobacter clade, comprising only as-yet-uncultured phylotypes. Bacteria of this cluster occur from temperate to polar regions with highest abundance in the Southern Ocean, but not in tropical and subtropical regions. Between the south Atlantic subtropical front and Antarctica, we detected two distinct phylotypes, one north and one south of the polar front, indicating that two adjacent but different oceanic provinces allow the persistence of distinct but closely related phylotypes. These results suggest that the global distribution of major marine bacterioplankton components is related to oceanic water masses and controlled by their environmental and biogeochemical properties.