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J Vis Exp. 2016 Dec 14;(118). doi: 10.3791/54897.

Optimization of a Quantitative Micro-neutralization Assay.

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  • 1Mill Hill Laboratory, The Francis Crick Institute.
  • 2Mill Hill Laboratory, The Francis Crick Institute;


The micro-neutralization (MN) assay is a standard technique for measuring the infectivity of the influenza virus and the inhibition of virus replication. In this study, we present the protocol of an imaging-based MN assay to quantify the true antigenic relationships between viruses. Unlike typical plaque reduction assays that rely on visible plaques, this assay quantitates the entire infected cell population of each well. The protocol matches the virus type or subtype with the selection of cell lines to achieve maximum infectivity, which enhances sample contrast during imaging and image processing. The introduction of quantitative titration defines the amount of input viruses of neutralization and enables the results from different experiments to be comparable. The imaging setup with a flatbed scanner and free downloadable software makes the approach high throughput, cost effective, user friendly, and easy to deploy in most laboratories. Our study demonstrates that the improved MN assay works well with the current circulating influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, A(H3N2), and B viruses, without being significantly influenced by amino acid substitutions in the neuraminidase (NA) of A(H3N2) viruses. It is particularly useful for the characterization of viruses that either grow to low HA titer and/or undergo an abortive infection resulting in an inability to form plaques in cultured cells.

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