Hydraphile compounds are shown to be cytotoxic to Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, yeast, and mammalian cells. Their cellular toxicity compares favorably with other synthetic ionophores and rivals that potency of natural antibiotics. The effects of structural variations on toxicity are described. The effects of these variations correlate well with previous studies of ion transport in liposomes. Whole cell patch clamping with mammalian cells confirms a channel mechanism in living cells suggesting that this family may comprise novel and flexible pharmacological agents.