Summary: ATCC 26555 switched at high frequency (10 to 10) between several phenotypes identified by colony morphology on a defined mineral amino-acid-containing agar medium supplemented with arginine and zinc (LAZ medium). When cells taken from colonies exhibiting distinct morphologies were plated directly onto LAZ agar, spontaneous conversion to all the variant phenotypes occurred at combined frequencies of 2·1 x 101 to 9·5 x 10 However, when cells taken from the different colonial phenotypes were plated directly onto an undefined medium (yeast extract/peptone/dextrose; YPD medium), or first incubated in liquid YPD medium and then cloned on YPD agar, all colonies observed exhibited the same phenotype (smooth-white). When cells from the smooth-white colonies were plated as clones on LAZ agar, the original switch phenotype reappeared. These results suggest that environmental conditions such as the growth medium (and possibly the temperature) influence switching by suppressing phenotype expression, but have no effect on genotype. The variant colony morphologies also appeared to be associated with differences in the relative proportions of yeast and mycelial cells. Zymolyase digests of wall preparations obtained from cells belonging to different colonial phenotypes were analysed by SDS-PAGE. After blotting to nitrocellulose paper, the mannoproteins were stained with Concanavalin A, with a polyclonal antiserum enriched in antibodies against mycelium-specific wall components, and with a monoclonal antibody raised against a high-molecular-mass mannoprotein band (260 kDa) specific to the walls of mycelial cells. The results suggest that phenotypic switching might be associated with changes in the degree of glycosylation in high-molecular-mass mannoproteins, or in the way these mannoproteins are bound to other cell wall components.


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