Ethanol and cell membranes

Main Question or Discussion Point

I'm told that ethanol crosses a cell membrane very easily and can screw up the inner workings of the cell. But ethanol is very hydrophilic, so shouldn't it have a really tough time crossing a phospholipid membrane? does it hijack a transport protein or something?
 

Answers and Replies

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Remember that small, highly polar (but uncharged) molecules such as water are able to diffuse almost freely through the lipid bilayer. Ethanol is larger than water, but not by a lot. Also, ethanol is significantly less polar than water because it has a two carbon alkyl group on it. Also, it only has two locations where it can hydrogen bond whereas water has three.
 

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