Send to

Choose Destination
Methods Mol Biol. 2009;501:161-74. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60327-164-6_17.

Bacteriophage plaques: theory and analysis.

Author information

Department of Microbiology, The Ohio State University, Mansfield, OH, USA.


Laboratory characterization of bacteriophage growth traditionally is done either in broth cultures or in semisolid agar media. These two environments may be distinguished in terms of their spatial structure, i.e., the degree to which they limit diffusion, motility, and environmental mixing. Well-mixed broth, for example, represents the microbiological ideal of a non-spatially structured environment. Agar, by contrast, imposes significant limitations on phage and bacterial movement and therefore gives rise to spatial structure. The study of phage growth within spatially structured environments, such as that seen during phage plaque formation, is important for three reasons. First, a large fraction of environmental bacteria live within spatially structured environments such as within biofilms, within soil, or when growing in or on the tissues of plants and animals. Second, phage growth as plaques is a central technique to phage studies, yet appears to be under appreciated by phage workers in terms of its complexity. Third, selective pressures acting on phage during plaque growth differ from those seen during broth growth. In this chapter we will discuss just what a plaque is, how one forms, and what can affect plaque size. We will describe methods, both experimental and theoretical, that have been employed to study plaque growth. As caveats we will discuss why plaque formation failure is not necessarily equivalent to virion inviability (Note 1). We also will consider problems with inferring phage broth growth fitness as a function of plaque characteristics (Note 2).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center