Prof. Dr. E.J. (Eric) Snijder

Professor, PI Molecular biology of +RNA viruses and antivirals

Area(s) of interest

  • Molecular biology and evolution of +RNA viruses
  • RNA virus-host interactions
  • Antiviral drug development and resistance
  • Nidoviruses (arteri- and coronaviruses)


Eric J. Snijder is professor of molecular Virology and head of the Section Research of the Department of Medical Microbiology of Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). He is also a member of the Permanent Science Committee of LUMC and board member of the LUMC research profile area Immunology, Infection & Tolerance.

PI Molecular biology of +RNA virus replication 
PI Antiviral drug development
PI Ultrastructure and function of viral replication complexes

Research interests

Viruses are specialized in abusing the infrastructure of their host cell for the benefit of the replication and expression of the viral genome and the production of new virus particles. On many levels, viruses are also engaged in a molecular arms race with their host cell, during which viruses time and again manage to evade or disrupt cellular defence mechanisms.  While doing so, viruses with an RNA genome can benefit from a special feature: a high mutation frequency that essentially renders the viral progeny a ‘swarm of mutants’ (known as ‘quasi-species’).  Although this would perhaps appear to be disadvantageous, RNA viruses employ this genetic variation to escape from, for example, the immune system of the host or antiviral therapy. Furthermore, it can enable them to adapt to new host species, a relevant phenomenon as many (re)emerging viruses are transferred from animal reservoirs (zoonotic infections). Basic knowledge regarding virus replication and evolution can be used to develop novel antiviral strategies, which will be essential to prepare ourselves for future virus outbreaks.

naar boven

Professional biosketch

Eric Snijder (1962) graduated from Utrecht University, the Netherlands, in 1986 (cum laude M.Sc. in Biology), after specializing in molecular biology, electron microscopy and molecular virology. Subsequently, he continued with a Ph.D. research project at the Department of Virology of the Utrecht Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, resulting a cum laude Ph.D. in 1991 (thesis "Berne virus – replication and evolution of the torovirus prototype"). In 1990, Snijder moved to the Department of Medical Microbiology of the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), where he became assistant professor and subsequently associate professor and principal investigator of the nidovirus research group. In 2000, he was awarded the C.J. Kok prize for his work on the molecular biology of nidoviruses (arteri- and coronaviruses). In 2007, Snijder was appointed full professor of molecular virology. His inaugural lecture was entitled ‘Virus evolution: ready while you wait’.

Eric Snijder investigates the molecular biology and evolution of viruses with a positive-stranded RNA genome, in particular nidoviruses like the coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS. The (molecular) interactions between these viruses and their host cell have been a central and recurrent theme in his research, which was and is supported by a variety of research grants from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the European Union (EU). Snijder has published over 235 scientific publications. He is a former Editor of the Journal of General Virology,  member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Virology and Virus Research, and member of the Advisory Committee of the Beijerinck Virology Fund. For the LUMC Biomedical Sciences curriculum, he coordinates the M.Sc. course “Molecular Virology of RNA viruses” and is also involved in a variety of other teaching activities. 

Prizes and honourable appointments 

In 2000, Eric Snijder received the C.J. Kok prize for his research on the molecular biology of nidoviruses. In 2012, he was elected as member of the American Academy of Microbiology.

naar boven

Selected publications

Ogando NS, Ferron F, Decroly E, Canard B, Posthuma CC, Snijder EJ. The curious case of the nidovirus exoribonuclease: its role in RNA synthesis and replication fidelity. Front Microbiol. 2019 Aug 7;10:1813. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.01813.

de Wilde AH, Boomaars-van der Zanden AL, de Jong AWM, Bárcena M, Snijder EJ, Posthuma CC. Adaptive mutations in replicase transmembrane subunits can counteract inhibition of equine arteritis virus RNA synthesis by cyclophilin inhibitors. J Virol. 2019 Aug 28;93(18). pii: e00490-19. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00490-19.

Melia CE, van der Schaar HM, de Jong AWM, Lyoo HR, Snijder EJ, Koster AJ, van Kuppeveld FJM, Bárcena M. The origin, dynamic morphology, and PI4P-independent formation of encephalomyocarditis virus replication organelles. MBio. 2018 Apr 17;9(2). pii: e00420-18. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00420-18.

de Wilde AH, Zevenhoven-Dobbe JC, Beugeling C, Chatterji U, de Jong D, Gallay P, Szuhai K, Posthuma CC, Snijder EJ. Coronaviruses and arteriviruses display striking differences in their cyclophilin A-dependence during replication in cell culture. Virology. 2018 Apr;517:148-156. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2017.11.022

Oudshoorn D, Rijs K, Limpens RWAL, Groen K, Koster AJ, Snijder EJ, Kikkert M, Bárcena M. Expression and cleavage of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus nsp3-4 polyprotein induce the formation of double-membrane vesicles that mimic those associated with coronaviral RNA replication. MBio. 2017 Nov 21;8(6). pii: e01658-17

Melia CE, van der Schaar HM, Lyoo H, Limpens RWAL, Feng Q, Wahedi M, Overheul GJ, van Rij RP, Snijder EJ, Koster AJ, Bárcena M, van Kuppeveld FJM. Escaping host factor PI4KB inhibition: Enterovirus genomic RNA replication in the absence of replication organelles. Cell Rep. 2017 Oct 17;21(3):587-599

Napthine S, Treffers EE, Bell S, Goodfellow I, Fang Y, Firth AE, Snijder EJ, Brierley I. A novel role for poly(C) binding proteins in programmed ribosomal frameshifting. Nucleic Acids Res. 2016 Jul 8;44(12):5491-503.

Lehmann KC, Gulyaeva A, Zevenhoven-Dobbe JC, Janssen GM, Ruben M, Overkleeft HS, van Veelen PA, Samborskiy DV, Kravchenko AA, Leontovich AM, Sidorov IA, Snijder EJ, Posthuma CC, Gorbalenya AE. Discovery of an essential nucleotidylating activity associated with a newly delineated conserved domain in the RNA polymerase-containing protein of all nidoviruses. Nucleic Acids Res. 2015 Sep 30;43(17):8416-34.

de Wilde AH, Wannee KF, Scholte FE, Goeman JJ, Ten Dijke P, Snijder EJ, Kikkert M, van Hemert MJ. A Kinome-Wide small interfering RNA screen identifies proviral and antiviral host factors in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus replication, including double-stranded RNA-activated protein kinase and early secretory pathway proteins. J Virol. 2015 Aug;89(16):8318-33.

Scholte FE, Tas A, Albulescu IC, Zusinaite E, Merits A, Snijder EJ, van Hemert MJ. Stress granule components G3BP1 and G3BP2 play a proviral role early in Chikungunya virus replication. J Virol. 2015 Apr;89(8):4457-69.

Bailey-Elkin BA, Knaap RC, Johnson GG, Dalebout TJ, Ninaber DK, van Kasteren PB, Bredenbeek PJ, Snijder EJ, Kikkert M, Mark BL. Crystal structure of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) papain-like protease bound to ubiquitin facilitates targeted disruption of deubiquitinating activity to demonstrate its role in innate immune suppression. J Biol Chem. 2014 Dec 12;289(50):34667-82.

Subissi L, Posthuma CC, Collet A, Zevenhoven-Dobbe JC, Gorbalenya AE, Decroly E, Snijder EJ, Canard B and Imbert I. One severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus protein complex integrates processive RNA polymerase and exonuclease activities. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014; 111:E3900-9

de Wilde AH, Jochmans D, Posthuma CC, Zevenhoven-Dobbe JC, van Nieuwkoop S, Bestebroer TM, van den Hoogen BG, Neyts J, Snijder EJ. Screening of an FDA-approved compound library identifies four small-molecule inhibitors of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus replication in cell culture. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2014 Aug;58(8):4875-84.

Li Y, Treffers EE, Napthine S, Tas A, Zhu L, Sun Z, Bell S, Mark BL, van Veelen PA, van Hemert MJ, Firth AE, Brierley I, Snijder EJ, Fang Y. Transactivation of programmed ribosomal frameshifting by a viral protein. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 May 27;111(21):E2172-81.

Schoggins JW, MacDuff DA, Imanaka N, Gainey MD, Shrestha B, Eitson JL, Mar KB, Richardson RB, Ratushny AV, Litvak V, Dabelic R, Manicassamy B, Aitchison JD, Aderem A, Elliott RM, García-Sastre A, Racaniello V, Snijder EJ, Yokoyama WM, Diamond MS, Virgin HW, Rice CM. Pan-viral specificity of IFN-induced genes reveals new roles for cGAS in innate immunity. Nature. 2014 Jan 30;505(7485):691-5. Erratum in: Nature. 2015 Sep 3;525(7567):144.

van Boheemen S, de Graaf  M, Lauber C, Bestebroer TM, Raj VS, Zaki AM, Osterhaus AD, Haagmans BL, Gorbalenya AE, Snijder EJ, and Fouchier RA. Genomic characterization of a newly discovered coronavirus associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome in humans. MBio 2012; 3:e00473-12.

Fang, Y, Treffers EE, Li Y, Tas A, Sun Z, van der Meer Y, de Ru AH, van Veelen PA, Atkins JF, Snijder EJ, and Firth AE. Efficient -2 frameshifting by mammalian ribosomes to synthesize an additional arterivirus protein. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2012; 109:E2920-8.

Knoops K, Bárcena M, Limpens RW, Koster AJ, Mommaas AM, and Snijder EJ. Ultrastructural characterization of arterivirus replication structures: reshaping the endoplasmic reticulum to accommodate viral RNA synthesis. J Virol 2012; 86:2474-2487.

Nedialkova DD, Gorbalenya AE, and Snijder EJ. Arterivirus Nsp1 modulates the accumulation of minus-strand templates to control the relative abundance of viral mRNAs. PLoS Pathog 2010; 6:e1000772.

Knoops K, Kikkert M, van den Worm SHE, Zevenhoven-Dobbe JC, van der Meer Y, Koster AJ, Mommaas AM, and Snijder EJ. SARS-coronavirus replication is supported by a reticulovesicular network of modified endoplasmic reticulum. PLoS Biol 2008; 6:e226.

Snijder EJ, Bredenbeek PJ, Dobbe JC, Thiel V, Ziebuhr J, Poon LL, Guan Y, Rozanov M, Spaan WJM, and Gorbalenya AE. Unique and conserved features of genome and proteome of SARS-coronavirus, an early split-off from the coronavirus group 2 lineage. J Mol Biol 2003; 331:991-1004.

All publications by Eric J. Snijder in PubMed 


Leiden University Medical Center
Building 1
Room E1-201

Albinusdreef 2
2333 ZA Leiden
Tel: +31(0)715261657 (61652)

Postalzone E4-P
P.O. Box 9600
2300 RC Leiden
The Netherlands