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The ability of storage media to preserve periodontal ligament (PDL) cell vitality has been previously evaluated. However, the mechanisms by which different storage conditions alter the functional status of PDL cells have not been determined. The purpose of the present study was to investigate, in vitro, the level of programed cell death or apoptosis in a population of PDL cells following storage under different conditions. Primary human PDL cells were plated into 24-well-culture plates and allowed to attach for 24 h. Cells were then exposed for 1 h to milk, Hank's balanced salt solution (HBSS), Soft Wear contact lens solution or Gatorade at room temperature or on ice. Culture medium was used as a negative control. Apoptosis was evaluated at 24, 48, and 72 h after treatment on quadruplicate samples by using the ST 160 ApopTag Fluorescein Direct In Situ Detection Kit. The total number of cells and the total number of apoptotic cells were counted. The results indicated that at 24 and 72 h, PDL treated with Gatorade and the contact lens solution displayed the highest percentages of apoptotic cells when compared with the other treatment groups at room temperature. Overall, cells treated on ice showed significantly lower levels of apoptosis when compared with treatments at room temperature. In conclusion, the results indicated that apoptosis plays a major role in cell death in cells treated with Gatorade and contact lens solutions in comparison to other storage solutions and that storage on ice can inhibit programed cell death.