Q:

What is a hypertonic environment?

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Quick Answer

A hypertonic environment is one in which the concentration of a solution's dissolved substance is greater than the concentration of the dissolved substance in the solution compared. If a cell is placed in a hypertonic environment, the cell membrane works to achieve equal concentrations on each side of the membrane.

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Full Answer

When a cell is placed in a hypertonic environment, there are two ways the concentration of the solution inside the cell can be balanced with the concentration of the solution outside the cell. If the dissolved substance can pass through the cell membrane, then it moves from the area of higher concentration outside the cell to the area of lower concentration inside the cell until equilibrium is reached. If the dissolved substance can't pass through the cell membrane, then water moves from the inside of the cell to the outside of the cell until the concentrations are equal. This movement of water causes the cell to shrink.

If a cell is placed in a hypotonic environment in which the concentration of the dissolved substance is lower, then the movement of the dissolved substance is reversed. Movement of water from the outside of the cell to the inside of the cell when it is placed in a hypotonic environment typically causes the cell to swell.

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