Ammonia has been reported to be toxic and inhibitory for mammalian cell cultures for many years. Reduction of growth rates and maximal cell densities in batch cultures, changes in metabolic rates, perturbation of protein processing and virus replication have been reported. However, cellular mechanisms of ammonia toxicity are still the subject of controversy and are presented here. The physical and chemical characteristics of ammonia and ammonium are important, with the former capable of readily diffusing across cellular membranes and the latter competing with other cations for active transport by means of carrier proteins.

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