Cells of Candida albicans WO-1 spontaneously switch between a white and opaque CFU, and this phase transition involves a dramatic change in cellular phenotype. By using a differential hybridization screen, an opaque-specific cDNA, Op1a, which represents the transcript of a gene regulated by switching, has been isolated. The gene for Op1a is transcribed by opaque but not by white cells. The nucleotide sequence of the Op1a cDNA reveals over 99% base homology with an acid protease gene of C. albicans, and the predicted amino acid sequence demonstrates that the product of this gene is a member of the family of pepsinogens, which possess a hydrophobic leader sequence for secretion and two catalytic aspartate domains. Southern blots of both genomic DNA digested with 14 different endonucleases and electrophoretically separated chromosomes were probed with the Op1a cDNA. No polymorphisms were detected in either case between white and opaque cells, suggesting that no genomic reorganization occurs in the proximity of the gene during the white- opaque transition. Although transcription of Op1a correlates with the high levels of extracellular protease activity in opaque cell cultures and the absence of activity in white cell cultures, stimulation of extracellular protease activity by addition of serum albumin is not accompanied by Op1a transcription in cultures of WO-1 white cells or cultures of two additional clinical isolates of C. albicans, suggesting that expression of one or more other protease genes is stimulated in these cases. The results demonstrate that transcription of the Op1a gene is under the rigid control of switching in strain WO-1.