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When a plant wilts, it slumps and becomes a soft mess. Wilting occurs when water leaves the cells of the plant and disturbs its internal pressure. This is an example of one of the three types of tonicity. A solution can have three categories of tonicity relative to another solution: hypertonic, hypotonic, and isotonic. Along with osmosis, tonicity is integral for biological systems to operate properly. Each type of tonicity describes how osmosis will occur between different solutions.

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1. Osmosis

To understand tonicity, it is important to first understand osmosis. The net movement of water across a semipermeable membrane from an area with a lower solute concentration to an area with a higher solute concentration is osmosis. A solute can be any material or cell that a solvent dissolves. Together, they form a solution. In the human body, solutes can be sugar, urea, potassium, or a variety of other materials. Osmosis is the primary means through which water enters and exits cells.

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