An in situ reverse transcription-PCR protocol for detecting specific mRNA in Methanosarcina mazei S-6 is described. This method allowed us to detect heat shock-induced increases in the intracellular levels of the transcript of the universal stress gene dnaK. The cell walls of paraformaldehyde-fixed cells were permeabilized by a thermal cycling procedure or by lysozyme treatment, and the cellular DNA was removed with DNase. The cells were subjected to a seminested reverse transcription-PCR protocol in which a digoxigenin-labeled primer was used. Detection of the reporter molecule was based on the 2-hydroxy-3-naphtoic acid-2'-phenylanilide phosphate-Fast Red detection system and binding of anti-digoxigenin-alkaline phosphatase conjugate. Fluorescence in permeabilized cells increased after a heat shock compared to fluorescence in non-heat-shocked cells, and the increase corresponded to an increase in the level of the dnaK transcript.