When you place a cell into a hypotonic solution, water rushes into it and it bursts/lyses. Thus, the cell dies.

However, when you place a cell into a hypertonic solution, water rushes out of it and it shrivels. The membrane is still in tact and all the organelles are still held inside. Why is having a shriveled cell a problem then?

  • $\begingroup$ Just as a comment at the moment: Water is the most important substance for the function of a cell. Without it, no reactions will take place etc. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Feb 12, 2016 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris Is that the only reason, though? $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2016 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ @lightweaver An interesting read if you're really interested. $\endgroup$
    – CKM
    Feb 12, 2016 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ Just to elaborate a bit on @Chris's answer - the protons and electrons that come from the disassociation of H2O are very important for reactions. Also the hydroxide ion has some important applications as well in organic reactions. $\endgroup$
    – MG_MD
    Feb 12, 2016 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ You should google the effects of osmosis on living cells. It really is gonna give some good results $\endgroup$
    – user18914
    Feb 13, 2016 at 10:31

1 Answer 1


Plant Cell

In the case of plants, shriveled cells are a huge problem. When plant cells are put in a hypertonic solution, the cell wall remains turgid and stays that way but the plasma membrane doesn't, it shrinks as you already know with the other organelles as well. This is known as plasmolysis. If this situation continues it causes death.

  • Shrivelling causes the plant to wilt too.

Animal Cells

Well it does have affects overall and at cellular level

  • It changes the RMP(resting membrane potential) across the cell because of change of sodium ions outside the cell -It decreases rate of metabolism
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Perhaps you may want to elaborate here. For all cells, exosmosis will increase the concentrations of solutes inside the cell. This would affect all cells not just electrically active cells. You may also want to explain how metabolism is affected. Moreover, this question is general (not pertaining just to humans); so you can remove the perspiration and fatigue part and explain what happens at the cellular level (as you started your answer). $\endgroup$
    Apr 23, 2018 at 10:18

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