Pollution of soil and water environments by crude oil has been, and is still today, an important problem. Crude oil is a complex mixture of thousands of compounds. Among them, alkanes constitute the major fraction. Alkanes are saturated hydrocarbons of different sizes and structures. Although they are chemically very inert, most of them can be efficiently degraded by several microorganisms. This review summarizes current knowledge on how microorganisms degrade alkanes, focusing on the biochemical pathways used and on how the expression of pathway genes is regulated and integrated within cell physiology.