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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]


  2. Review of Medical Physiology, William F. Ganong, McGraw-Hill Medical, ISBN 978-0-07-144040-0.
  3. PMID 16714475 (PMID 16714475)
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  4. PMID 19675355 (PMID 19675355)
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Further readingEdit

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