Legionella spp. the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease is naturally found in fresh water where the bacteria parasitize intracellularly within protozoa. Upon aerosol formation via man-made water systems, Legionella can enter the human lung and cause a severe form of pneumonia. Here we review results from systematic comparative genome analysis of Legionella species with different pathogenic potentials. The complete genomes reveal that horizontal gene transfer has played an important role during the evolution of Legionella and indicate the importance of secretion machineries for the intracellular lifestyle of this pathogen. Moreover, we highlight recent findings on the in vivo transcriptional program of L. pneumophila and the regulatory networks involved in the biphasic life cycle. In order to understand how Legionella effectively subvert host cell functions for its own benefit the transcriptional host cell response upon infection of the model amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum was studied. The use of this model organism made it possible to develop a roadmap of host cell factors which significantly contribute to the uptake of L. pneumophila and the establishment of an ER-associated replicative vacuole.