Dimethyl sulphoxide is a water miscible solvent that has wide applications in cell biology. It acts as a cryoprotective agent in a variety of cells and tissues allowing prolonged storage at subzero temperatures. The action of dimethyl sulphoxide on the stability of the liquid matrix of cell membranes appears to be responsible for its effects and this appears also to be true for related effects on membrane permeability and fusion. Dimethyl sulphoxide is also known to act as an inducer of cellular differentiation and as a free radical scavenger and radioprotectant. A review of the underlying molecular basis of all these effects of dimethyl sulphoxide is presented.

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