What is the Difference Between DMEM and EMEM

The main difference between DMEM and EMEM is that DMEM contains four times more vitamins and amino acids and two to four times more in comparison to the EMEM formula whereas EMEM is based on six salts and glucose. Furthermore, DMEM contains iron in the form of ferric sulfate. 

DMEM (Dulbecco‘s modified Eagle’s medium) and EMEM (Eagle’s Minimum Essential Medium) are two variations of the “Basal Medium Eagle” (BME) developed by Harry Eagle in 1955-1957. Notably, BME contains 13 essential amino acids and nine vitamins. 

Key Areas Covered 

1. What is DMEM
     – Definition, Composition, Importance
2. What is EMEM
     – Definition, Composition, Importance
3. What are the Similarities Between DMEM and EMEM
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between DMEM and EMEM
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms 

Artificial Media, Basal Media, BME, DMEM, EMEM, Serum-Free

Difference Between DMEM and EMEM - Comparison Summary

What is DMEM 

DMEM (Dulbecco‘s modified Eagle’s medium) is a type of liquid, serum-free media developed by Dulbecco and Vogt in 1959 as a variation of BME (Basal Medium Eagle).  BME is a type of artificial media developed by Harry Eagle in 1955-1957. Also, it was used on mouse L cells and human HeLa cells. Significantly, it contains 13 amino acids and 9 vitamins. However, Harry Eagle modified his BME into EMEM, doubling the amount of amino acids, making the composition of the medium similar to that of cultured human cells. It makes the refeeding time of the culture longer. Also, he removed biotin (vitamin B7), one of the nine vitamins of the BME, which is superfluous. 

Difference Between DMEM and EMEM

Figure 1: DMEM

Moreover, DMEM contains four times more vitamins and amino acids in comparison to EMEM. Similarly, it contains two or four times more glucose in comparison to EMEM. Also, the optimal glucose concentration for many types of cells is 4500 mg/L in DMEM. In addition to these, it contains iron, which comes from ferric sulfate. Thus, it makes DMEM is more suitable for specific cell types. However, as DMEM is a basal medium, it does not contain proteins or growth-promoting agents. Therefore, it requires supplementation to become a complete medium. However, DMEM is widely applicable for primary mouse and chicken cells, viral plaque formation, and contact inhibition studies.  

What is EMEM 

EMEM (Eagle’s Minimum Essential Medium) is another variation of BME. It is also a type of basal media, which are artificial media as well. As described above, Harry Eagle developed EMEM in 1959. It was among the most widely used media. Furthermore, EMEM contains 13 essential amino acids, 8 vitamins, 6 salts, and glucose. Here, the 13 amino acids include L-arginine, L-cystine, L-glutamine, L-histidine, L-isoleucine, L-leucine, L-lysine, L-methionine, L-phenylalanine, L-threonine, L-tryptophan, L-tyrosine, and L-valine. 

Main Difference - DMEM vs EMEM

Figure 2: EMEM

Furthermore, the 8 vitamins include thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), nicotinamide (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), folic acid (vitamin B9), choline, and Myo-inositol (vitamin B8). In addition to these, the 6 salts include sodium chloride, calcium chloridepotassium chloridemagnesium sulfatesodium phosphate, and sodium bicarbonateHowever, as EMEM is a basal medium, it should be fortified with higher levels of serum or supplements to use it as a complete medium.  

Similarities Between DMEM and EMEM 

  • DMEM and EMEM are two variations of basal media used for primary and diploid cultures. 
  • Both are types of artificial media. Therefore, they contain added nutrients, which are organic and inorganic.  
  • Both are serum-free, liquid media. Therefore, they lack proteins and contain amino acids, glucose, salts, and vitamins. 
  • Moreover, they are cell culture media.
  • They are important for both the immediate and prolonged survival of microorganisms. 
  • They are also important for indefinite growth and specialized functions. 
  • Both contain phenol red as a pH indicator. 
  • They utilize a sodium bicarbonate buffer system (3.7 g/L). Therefore, they require artificial levels of CO2  (5%) to maintain the required pH.   
  • Besides, they require supplementation to become complete media. 

Difference Between DMEM and EMEM 

Definition 

DMEM refers to a modification of BME, containing a higher concentration of amino acids, vitamins, and additional supplementary components while EMEM refers to the most widely used media and modification of BME, containing a higher concentration of essential nutrients. 

Developed by 

DMEM was developed by Dulbecco and Vogt in 1959 while EMEM was developed by Harry Eagle in 1959. 

Nutritional Significance 

Furthermore, DMEM contains four times more vitamins and amino acids and two to four times more glucose in comparison to the EMEM formula, while EMEM is based on 6 salts and glucose. 

Iron 

While DMEM contains iron, which comes from ferric sulfate, EMEM does not contain iron. 

Applications 

Moreover, DMEM is applicable for primary mouse and chicken cells, viral plaque formation, and contact inhibition studies, while EMEM is important in maintaining cells in tissue culture. 

Conclusion 

DMEM is a type of artificial media and a variation of BME. It contains four times more vitamins and amino acids and two or four times more glucose in comparison to EMEM. In contrast, EMEM is another type of artificial media and a variation of BME. However, it contains 6 salts, including iron. Also, it contains glucose in comparison to BME. Still, DMEM is suitable for the growth of specific cell types. Therefore, the main difference between DMEM and EMEM is their nutritional significance in comparison to the BME. 

References:

1. Arora, Meenakshi. “Cell Culture Media: A Review.” Materials and Methods, vol. 3, May 2013, doi:10.13070/mm.en.3.175.
2. “Eagle’s Minimal Essential Medium.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Oct. 2019, Available Here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “DMEM cell culture medium” By Lilly_M – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia      
2. “Glasgow MEM cell culture medium” By Lilly_M – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia   

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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