More than 20 alpha-proteobacterial genomes are currently available. These range in size from 1-9 Mb and represent excellent model systems for evolutionary studies of the organizational features of bacterial genomes. Computational inferences have shown that genome reductions have occurred independently in lineages such as Rickettsia and Bartonella that are associated with intracellular lifestyles. Analyses of these reduced genomes have provided insights into the evolution of vector-borne transmission pathways. Further research into the population biology of bacteria, arthropods and vertebrate hosts will help to refine the biology of host-pathogen interactions and will facilitate the design of vaccines and vector-control programs.