In Aspergillus nidulans, a fungus that possesses negligible, if any, levels of methylation in its genome, low concentrations of 5-azacytidine (5-AC) convert a high percentage of the cell population to fluffy phenotypic variants through a heritable modification of a single nuclear gene (M. Tamame, F. Antequera, J. R. Villanueva, and T. Santos, Mol. Cell. Biol. 3:2287-2297, 1983). This new 5-AC-altered locus, designated here fluF1, was mapped as the closest marker to the centromere that has been identified so far on the right arm of chromosome VIII. Of all mutagens tested, only 5-AC induced the fluffy phenotype with a significant frequency. Furthermore, we determined that the wild-type, dominant allele of the fluF gene was primarily accessible to modification by 5-AC at the initial stages of fungal vegetative growth. These results indicated that 5-AC does not act through random mutagenic action but, rather, that fluF constitutes a specific target for this drug during a well-defined period of fungal development. Alteration of fluF by 5-AC resulted in a dramatic modification of the developmental program of A. nidulans. The resulting fluffy clones were characterized by massive, uncontrolled proliferation of undifferentiated hyphae, a drastic delay in the onset of asexual differentiation (conidiation), and colonies with an invasive nature. These features are reminiscent of the malignant properties of tumor cells. We propose that the locus fluF plays a primary role in the control of cell proliferation in A. nidulans and that its alteration by 5-AC produces pleiotropic modifications of the developmental program of this fungus.