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Osmolytes are compounds affecting osmosis.[1] They are soluble in the solution within a cell, or in the surrounding fluid, e.g. as plasma osmolytes. They play a role in maintaining cell volume and fluid balance. For example, when a cell swells due to external osmotic pressure, membrane channels open and allow efflux of osmolytes which carry water with them, restoring normal cell volume.[2]

Natural osmolytes that can act as osmoprotectants include trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), dimethylsulfoniopropionate, trimethylglycine, sarcosine, betaine, glycerophosphorylcholine, myo-inositol, taurine and others.[3] In humans, osmolytes are of particular importance in the renal medulla.[4]


  1. ^ everythingbio.com
  2. ^ Review of Medical Physiology, William F. Ganong, McGraw-Hill Medical, ISBN 978-0-07-144040-0.
  3. ^ Neuhofer, W.; Beck, F. X. (2006). "Survival in Hostile Environments: Strategies of Renal Medullary Cells". Physiology 21 (3): 171–180. doi:10.1152/physiol.00003.2006. PMID 16714475.  edit
  4. ^ Gallazzini, M.; Burg, M. B. (2009). "What's New About Osmotic Regulation of Glycerophosphocholine". Physiology 24 (4): 245–249. doi:10.1152/physiol.00009.2009. PMC 2943332. PMID 19675355.  edit

Further reading[edit]

  • Hochachka, P.W.; Somero, G. N (2002). Biochemical Adaptation. Mechanism and Process in Physiological Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.