We have developed methods for the purification and analysis of RNA from formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tissue. The methods allow retrospective analysis of gene expression or viral infection. RNA extraction uses prolonged solubilization of tissue with detergent and protease in the presence of high concentrations of a ribonuclease inhibitor. The purified RNA is moderately degraded but its hybridization behavior is essentially unaffected. We were able to quantify specific mRNAs by dot-blot hybridization.