Natural-abundance 13C n.m.r. spin-lattice relaxation-time measurements have been carried out on intact cells of the unicellular blue--green alga Synechococcus sp. and the unicellular green alga Dunaliella salina, with the aim of characterizing the environments of the organic osmoregulatory solutes in these salt-tolerant organisms. In Synechococcus sp., all of the major organic osmoregulatory solute, 2-O-alpha-D-glucopyranosylglycerol, is visible in spectra of intact cells. Its rotational motion in the cell is slower by a factor of approx. 2.4 than in aqueous solution, but the molecule is still freely mobile and therefore able to contribute to the osmotic balance. In D. salina, only about 60% of the osmoregulatory solute glycerol is visible in spectra of intact cells. The rotational mobility of this observable fraction is approximately half that found in aqueous solution, but the data also indicate that there is a significant concentration of some paramagnetic species in D. salina which contributes to the overall spin-lattice relaxation of the glycerol carbon atoms. The non-observable fraction, which must correspond to glycerol molecules that have very broad 13C resonances and that are in slow exchange with bulk glycerol, has not been properly characterized as yet, but may represent glycerol in the chloroplast. The implications of these findings in relation to the physical state of the cytoplasm and the mechanism of osmoregulation in these cells are discussed.