A second high-frequency switching system was identified in selected pathogenic strains in the dimorphic yeast Candida albicans. In the characterized strain WO-1, cells switched heritably, reversibly, and at a high frequency (approximately 10(-2] between two phenotypes readily distinguishable by the size, shape, and color of colonies formed on agar at 25 degrees C. In this system, referred to as the "white-opaque transition," cells formed either "white" hemispherical colonies, which were similar to the ones formed by standard laboratory strains of C. albicans, or "opaque" colonies, which were larger, flatter, and grey. At least three other heritable colony phenotypes were generated by WO-1 and included one irregular-wrinkle and two fuzzy colony phenotypes. The basis of the white-opaque transition appears to be a fundamental difference in cellular morphology. White cells were similar in shape, size, and budding pattern to cells of common laboratory strains. In dramatic contrast, opaque cells were bean shaped and exhibited three times the volume and twice the mass of white cells, even though these alternative phenotypes contained the same amount of DNA and a single nucleus in the log phase. In addition to differences in morphology, white and opaque cells differed in their generation time, in their sensitivity to low and high temperatures, and in their capacity to form hypae. The possible molecular mechanisms involved in high-frequency switching in the white-opaque transition are considered.