Regions of the genes encoding flagellin (flaA), the invasive associated protein (iap), listeriolysin O (hly) and 23S rRNA were sequenced for a range of Listeria monocytogenes isolates of different origin and serotypes. Several nucleotide sequence variations were found in the flaA, iap and hly genes. No differences were found for the rRNA genes, but our approach does not exclude the existence of differences between single copies of these genes. Based on the sequence differences, the L. monocytogenes strains can be divided into three distinct sequence types. Further, the presence of only a small number of sequence differences within each group indicates a strong degree of conservation within the groups. There was a complete correspondence among the groups of strains formed according to the analysis of the flaA, iap and hly genes, and the grouping correlates with serotype, pulsed field gel electrophoretic and multilocus enzyme electrophoretic data. Analysis of the region encoding the threonine-asparagine repeat units in the iap gene revealed some striking features. Sequence type 1 strains were found to have 16-17 repeats, sequence type 2 strains had 16-20 repeats whereas the two sequence type 3 strains analysed had only 11 repeats. Furthermore, within a 19 bp segment there was a 37% difference between the sequences of type 1 and 2 strains and that segment was absent in type 3 strains. Within the threonine-asparagine repeat region the nucleotide differences gave rise to four amino acid changes; however, all were changes among the three amino acids present in the repeat structure indicating a strong selective pressure on the composition of this region.