Mannitol was introduced into the media of bovine corneal endothelial cells grown in culture. This was accomplished in order to compare its influence on Na,K-ATPase activity with that of high levels of glucose that inhibit the enzyme. The study was conducted with the intent of showing possible adverse osmolar effects on enzyme activity. Mannitol was found to inhibit NA,K-ATPase when compared with mannitol-free medium (11 U vs. 202 U). However, this inhibition was significantly greater than that produced by high levels of glucose. When mannitol was introduced directly into the assay for the plasma membrane-extracted enzyme, the inhibition was as severe (14 U) as for that placed in the culture medium. By way of comparison, glucose introduced into the enzyme assay caused no significant inhibition (189 U). The mannitol concentration used was 20 mM and in the media there was an osmotic pressure of 347 mOsmol/kg. The high glucose concentration was 25 mM and the osmotic pressure in the media was 341 mOsmol/kg. These osmotic pressures were compared with that of the control medium (with 5 mM glucose), which generated a pressure of 308 mOsmol/kg. None of these values were judged sufficiently high to rupture cell plasma membranes or alter cell morphology as seen by vital staining and phase contrast microscopy. In addition, it was found that mannitol had no effect on cellular DNA, whereas a previous study showed that high glucose caused an increased unwinding of duplex DNA. This study suggests that mannitol inhibits endothelial cell Na,K-ATPase by a different mechanism than that of glucose. It further points out that osmotic effects may not be involved with either mechanism.