BackgroundListeria monocytogenes Clonal Complexes (CCs) have been epidemiologically associated with foods, especially ready-to-eat (RTE) products for which the most likely source of contamination depends on the occurrence of persisting clones in food-processing environments (FPEs). As the ability of L. monocytogenes to adapt to environmental stressors met in the food chain challenges the efforts to its eradication from FPEs, the threat of persistent strains to the food industry and public health authorities continues to rise. In this study, 94 food and FPEs L. monocytogenes isolates, representing persistent subtypes contaminating three French seafood facilities over 2–6 years, were whole-genome sequenced to characterize their genetic diversity and determine the biomarkers associated with long-term survival in FPEs.ResultsFood and FPEs isolates belonged to five CCs, comprising long-term intra- and inter-plant persisting clones. Mobile genetic elements (MGEs) such as plasmids, prophages and transposons were highly conserved within CCs, some of which harboured genes for resistance to chemical compounds and biocides used in the processing plants. Some of these genes were found in a 90.8 kbp plasmid, predicted to be” mobilizable”, identical in isolates from CC204 and CC155, and highly similar to an 81.6 kbp plasmid from isolates belonging to CC7. These similarities suggest horizontal transfer between isolates, accompanied by deletion and homologous recombination in isolates from CC7. Prophage profiles characterized persistent clonal strains and several prophage-loci were plant-associated. Notably, a persistent clone from CC101 harboured a novel 31.5 kbp genomic island that we named Listeria genomic island 3 (LGI3), composed by plant-associated loci and chromosomally integrating cadmium-resistance determinants cadA1C.ConclusionsGenome-wide analysis indicated that inter- and intra-plant persisting clones harbour conserved MGEs, likely acquired in FPEs and maintained by selective pressures. The presence of closely related plasmids in L. monocytogenes CCs supports the hypothesis of horizontal gene transfer conferring enhanced survival to FPE-associated stressors, especially in hard-to-clean harbourage sites. Investigating the MGEs evolutionary and transmission dynamics provides additional resolution to trace-back potentially persistent clones. The biomarkers herein discovered provide new tools for better designing effective strategies for the removal or reduction of resident L. monocytogenes in FPEs to prevent contamination of RTE seafood.