A hydroxypropyl methylcellulose plaque assay for human respiratory syncytial virus

J Virol Methods. 2022 Jun;304:114528. doi: 10.1016/j.jviromet.2022.114528. Epub 2022 Mar 28.


Quantifying proliferative virus particles is one of the most important experimental procedures in virology. Compared with classical overlay materials, newly developed cellulose derivatives enable a plaque-forming assay to produce countable clear plaques easily. HEp-2 cells are widely used in plaque assays for human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It is crucial to use an overlay material to keep HEp-2 cell proliferation and prevent RSV particles from spreading over the fluid. Among four cellulose derivatives, carboxymethyl cellulose sodium salt (CMC), hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC), microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), and hydroxyethyl cellulose (HEC), we found that HPMC was the optimal overlay material because HPMC maintained HEp-2 cell proliferation and RSV infectivity. Although MCC was unsuitable for RSV, it assisted the plaque-forming by human metapneumovirus in TMPRSS2-expressing cells. Therefore, depending on the cells and viruses, it is necessary to use different overlay materials at varying concentrations.

Keywords: Human metapneumovirus; Human respiratory syncytial virus; Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose; Plaque assay; Pneumoviridae.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cellulose / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hypromellose Derivatives
  • Metapneumovirus*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human*


  • Hypromellose Derivatives
  • Cellulose