Candida parapsilosis shows a wide intraspecies variation in chromosome/homolog size distribution. As a prerequisite for delineating modes of transmission, we have undertaken an analysis of genetic variation at different levels. In the present study we have observed that a majority of isolates display similar electrophoretic karyotype patterns consistent for the species, with variations in the smaller group of chromosomes. In two strains we observed phenotypic "switching"; one of these also exhibited a mixed karyotypic subpopulation. In contrast, a few isolates displayed a greater degree of chromosome/homolog size variation. We also observed, through randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis, results consistent with those of pulsed-field electrophoresis. Isolates displaying a high degree of chromosome/homolog variation also displayed a high degree of variation in genomic "fingerprints". Polymorphisms, although present, were much reduced in the majority of isolates. These parallel observations suggest a common underlying mechanism. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that chromosome-sized variations in C. parapsilosis are due to random genetic events. A similar mechanism has been hypothesized for the taxonomically related yeast Candida albicans.