views updated

osmolyte Any compound that protects cells from desiccation by maintaining a high intracellular osmolality (osmotic concentration). Osmolytes are active in the process of osmoregulation and are of particular use in the kidneys, where cells are exposed to highly concentrated fluids. Compounds that are known osmolytes include polyols, amines (e.g. trimethylamine), certain amino acids, and urea.