Cristian Apetrei

  • Associate Professor, Microbiology & Molecular Genetics
  • Associate Professor, Infectious Diseases and Microbiology

Dr. Apetrei is an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Apetrei received his M.D. and Ph.D. Degrees from the School of Medicine of the "Gr. T. Popa" University of Iasi, Romania. He is board certified in the EU in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. He was a research fellow in the Virus Laboratory of Bichat-Claude Bernard Hospital, Paris France. Dr. Apetrei has expertise in the pathogenesis and diversity of HIV/SIV infection.

My laboratory is interested in the study of the HIV/SIV diversity and pathogenesis. The AIDS pandemic is produced by two different viruses, HIV-1 and HIV-2. These two viruses resulted from cross-species transmissions of SIVs, the viruses that naturally infect nonhuman primate species (NHPs) in Africa. HIV-1 resulted from 4 cross-species transmissions of SIVcpz/gor that infects chimpanzees and gorillas in West-Central Africa. HIV-2 emerged after 8 cross-species transmissions of SIVsmm that infects sooty mangabeys in West Africa.

As SIVs naturally infect more than 40 species of non-human primates (NHPs)in Africa, our major concern is whether or not the remaining viruses infecting other species of African NHPs pose a major threat for humans. Our studies revealed that cross-species transmission of SIVs to humans are not the only requirement for the emergence on new virus strains and suggested that viral adaptation in the new host may play a decisive role for this event. Understanding the mechanisms of viral adaptation to new hosts upon cross-species transmission is of major interest for my laboratory. Using monkey models, we study the mechanisms of viral adaptation associated with viral emergence.

Also, in order to better understand the AIDS pathogenesis, we are using various models of SIV infection in natural hosts. In African monkeys SIV are not pathogenic in the vast majority of cases. My group is involved in the study of all currently available models (sooty mangabeys, African green monkeys and mandrills) and generated significant results that challenged core paradigms of SIV pathogenesis.These studies may help us to control HIV infection in patients. Since no vaccinal strategy currently developed seems to be effective, these alternative approaches may be essential in the control of AIDS pandemic.

Selected Publications

Ma D, Jasinska A, Kristoff J, Grobler JP, Turner T, Jung Y, Schmitt C, Raehtz K, Feyertag F, Martinez Sosa N, Wijewardana V, Burke DS, Robertson DL, Tracy R, Pandrea I, Freimer N,Apetrei C; International Vervet Research Consortium.SIVagm Infection in Wild African Green Monkeys from South Africa: Epidemiology, Natural History, and Evolutionary Considerations.PLoS Pathog. 2013 Jan;9(1):e1003011.

Fischer W,Apetrei C, Santiago ML, Li Y, Gautam R, Pandrea I, Shaw GM, Hahn BH, Letvin NL, Nabel GJ, Korber BT: Distinct evolutionary pressures underlie diversity in simian immunodeficiency virus and human immunodeficiency virus lineages. J Virol. 2012 Dec;86(24):13217-31.

Apetrei C, Pandrea I, Mellors JW. Nonhuman primate models for HIV cure research. PLoS Pathog. 2012;8(8):e1002892.

Pandrea I, Cornell E, Wilson C, Ribeiro RM, Ma D, Kristoff J, Xu C, Haret-Richter GS, Trichel A,Apetrei C, Landay A, Tracy R. Coagulation biomarkers predict disease progression in SIV-infected nonhuman primates. Blood. 2012 Aug 16;120(7):1357-66.

Apetrei C, Sumpter B, Souquiere S, Chahroudi A, Makuwa M, Reed P, Ribeiro RM, Pandrea I, Roques P, Silvestri G. Immunovirological analyses of chronically simian immunodeficiency virus SIVmnd-1- and SIVmnd-2-infected mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx. J Virol. 2011 Dec;85(24):13077-87. Epub 2011 Sep 28. PMID:21957286

Vinton C, Klatt NR, Harris LD, Briant JA, Sanders-Beer BE, Herbert R, Woodward R, Silvestri G, Pandrea I,Apetrei C, Hirsch VM, Brenchley JM. CD4-like immunological function by CD4- T cells in multiple natural hosts of simian immunodeficiency virus. J Virol. 2011 Sep;85(17):8702-8. Epub 2011 Jun 29. PMID:21715501

Pandrea I, Parrish NF, Raehtz K, Gaufin T, Barbian HJ, Ma D, Kristoff J, Gautam R, Zhong F, Haret-Richter GS, Trichel A, Shaw GM, Hahn BH,Apetrei C. Mucosal simian immunodeficiency virus transmission in African green monkeys: susceptibility to infection is proportional to target cell availability at mucosal sites. J Virol. 2012 Apr;86(8):4158-68.

Pandrea I, Gaufin T, Gautam R, Kristoff J, Mandell D, Montefiori D, Keele BF, Ribeiro RM, Veazey RS,Apetrei C. Functional cure of SIVagm infection in rhesus macaques results in complete recovery of CD4+ T cells and is reverted by CD8+ cell depletion. PLoS Pathog. 2011 . Aug;7(8):e1002170.

Paiardini M, Cervasi B, Reyes-Aviles E, Micci L, Ortiz AM, Chahroudi A, Vinton C, Gordon SN, Bosinger SE, Francella N, Hallberg PL, Cramer E, Schlub T, Chan ML, Riddick NE, Collman RG,Apetrei C, Pandrea I, ElseJ, Munch J, Kirchhoff F, Davenport MP, Brenchley JM, Silvestri G: Low
levels of SIV infection in sooty mangabey central memory CD4(+) T cells are associated with limited CCR5 expression. Nat Med. 2011 Jun 26. doi:10.1038/nm.2395. PMID:21706028

Apetrei C, Gaufin T, Gautam R, Vinton C, Hirsch V, Lewis M, Brenchley J, Pandrea I. Pattern of SIVagm infection in patas monkeys suggests that host adaptation to simian immunodeficiency virus infection may result in resistance to infection and virus extinction. J Infect Dis. 2010 Nov 1;202 Suppl 3:S371-6.PMID:20887227

Worobey M, Telfer P, Souquière S, Hunter M, Coleman CA, Metzger MJ, Reed P, Makuwa M, Hearn G, Honarvar S, Roques P, Apetrei C, Kazanji M, Marx PA.  Island biogeography reveals the deep history of SIV. Science. 2010 Sep 17;329(5998):1487. Erratum in: Science. 2010 Sep 17;329(5998):1487.