Abstract The brucellae are α-Proteobacteria causing brucellosis, an important zoonosis. Although multiplying in endoplasmic reticulum-derived vacuoles, they cause no cell death, suggesting subtle but efficient use of host resources. Brucellae are amino-acid prototrophs able to grow with ammonium or use glutamate as the sole carbon-nitrogen source in vitro. They contain more than twice amino acid/peptide/polyamine uptake genes than the amino-acid auxotroph Legionella pneumophila, which multiplies in a similar vacuole, suggesting a different nutritional strategy. During these two last decades, many mutants of key actors in nitrogen metabolism (transporters, enzymes, regulators, etc.) have been described to be essential for full virulence of brucellae. Here, we review the genomic and experimental data on Brucella nitrogen metabolism and its connection with virulence. An analysis of various aspects of this metabolism (transport, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism, respiration and regulation) has highlighted differences and similarities in nitrogen metabolism with other α-Proteobacteria. Together, these data suggest that, during their intracellular life cycle, the brucellae use various nitrogen sources for biosynthesis, catabolism and respiration following a strategy that requires prototrophy and a tight regulation of nitrogen use.