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Virol J. 2014 Apr 18;11:71. doi: 10.1186/1743-422X-11-71.

Resolving the titer of murine cytomegalovirus by plaque assay using the M2-10B4 cell line and a low viscosity overlay.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Jefferson Medical College, Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University, 233 S, 10th St BLSB, rm 526, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.



Murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) is increasingly used as an infectious model to investigate host-pathogen interactions in mice. Detailed methods have been published for using primary murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) for preparing stocks and determining viral titers of MCMV. For determining the titer of MCMV by plaque assay, these methods rely on a high viscosity media that restricts viral spreading through the supernatant of the culture, but is also usually too viscous to pipet. Moreover, MEFs must be repeatedly generated and can vary widely from batch-to-batch in purity, proliferation rates, and the development of senescence. In contrast, the M2-10B4 bone marrow stromal cell line (ATCC # CRL-1972), which is also permissive for MCMV, has been reported to produce high-titer stocks of MCMV and has the considerable advantages of growing rapidly and consistently. However, detailed methods using these cells have not been published.


We modified existing protocols to use M2-10B4 cells for measuring MCMV titers by plaque assay.


We found that MCMV plaques could be easily resolved on monolayers of M2-10B4 cells. Moreover, plaques formed normally even when cultures of M2-10B4 cells were less than 50% confluent on the day of infection, as long as we also used a reduced viscosity overlay.


Overall, our protocol enabled us to use a consistent cell line to assess viral titers, rather than repeatedly producing primary MEFs. It also allowed us to start the assay with 4-fold fewer cells than would be required to generate a confluent monolayer, reducing the lead-time prior to the start of the assay. Finally, the reduced viscosity CMC could be handled by pipet and did not need to be pre-mixed with media, thus increasing its shelf-life and ease-of-use. We describe our results here, along with detailed protocols for the use of the M2-10B4 cell lines to determine the titer and grow stocks of MCMV.

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