Sequencing of the Rickettsia conorii genome and its comparison with its closest sequenced pathogenic relative, i.e., Rickettsia prowazekii, provided powerful insights into the evolution of these microbial pathogens. However, advances in our knowledge of rickettsial diseases are still hindered by the difficulty of working with strict intracellular bacteria and their hosts. Information gained from comparing the genomes of closely related organisms will shed new light on proteins susceptible to be targeted in specific diagnostic assays, by new antimicrobial drugs, and that could be employed in the generation of future rickettsial vaccines. In this review we present a detailed comparison of the metabolic pathways of these bacteria as well as the polymorphisms of their membrane proteins, transporters and putative virulence factors. Environmental adaptation of Rickettsia is also discussed.