Translocation of sterols between cellular membrane leaflets is of key importance in membrane organization, dynamics, and signaling.

We present a novel translocation mechanism that differs in a unique manner from the established ones. The bobbing mechanism identified here is demonstrated for tail-oxidized sterols, but is expected to be viable for any molecule containing two polar centers at the opposite sides of the molecule. The mechanism renders translocation across a lipid membrane possible without a change in molecular orientation. For tail-oxidized sterols, the bobbing mechanism provides an exceptionally facile means to translocate these signaling molecules across membrane structures and may thus represent an important pathway in the course of their biological action.

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