Chemosynthetic endosymbioses occur ubiquitously at oxic-anoxic interfaces in marine environments. In these mutualisms, bacteria living directly within the cell of a eukaryotic host oxidize reduced chemicals (sulfur or methane), fueling their own energetic and biosynthetic needs, in addition to those of their host. In habitats such as deep-sea hydrothermal vents, chemosynthetic symbioses dominate the biomass, contributing substantially to primary production. Although these symbionts have yet to be cultured, physiological, biochemical and molecular approaches have provided insights into symbiont genetics and metabolism, as well as into symbiont-host interactions, adaptations and ecology. Recent studies of endosymbiont biology are reviewed, with emphasis on a conceptual model of thioautotrophic metabolism and studies linking symbiont physiology with the geochemical environment. We also discuss current and future research directions, focusing on the use of genome analyses to reveal mechanisms that initiate and sustain the symbiont-host interaction.