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The cytostatic effects of conventional high osmolal ionic contrast media (meglumine-calcium metrizoate and Na-metrizoate) and new low osmolal nonionic contrast media (iohexol and iopamidol) in synchronized cell cultures were tested. The cell-cycle prolongation was most pronounced when the contrast media were added in the G1 phase, but there was also a marked effect when the contrast media were added in the S phase or late in the G2 phase. The cytostatic effect even persisted into the first cell cycle following the termination of the exposure.All four contrast media exerted effects stronger than that of equiosmolal saline. Iohexol and iopamidol produced a more severe effect than meglumine-calcium metrizoate and Na-metrizoate at equal osmolality. Thus, the cytostatic effect of contrast media cannot be explained only by hypertonicity; the contrast media must have an additional specific cytostatic effect.When the cytostatic effect was related to iodine concentration, the new low osmolal nonionic contrast media influenced the cell cycle less than the conventional high osmolal ionic contrast media.