A rapid and specific technique to detect polyriboadenylic acid sequences in RNA is described. The method depends upon the ability of RNAs that contain poly(A) sequences to associate specifically with poly(U) that has been immobilized on fiberglass filters by ultraviolet irradiation. A high proportion of the transcripts synthesized in vivo and in vitro from the vaccinia virus genome contain poly(A) sequences and bind to the poly(U) filters. Similarly, DNA-like RNA from the nucleus and from the cytoplasmic polyribosomes of HeLa cells is rich in species that bind to poly(U) filters. Poly(U) immobilized on cellulose powder is useful to make columns with a high capacity for the binding and purification of poly(A)-containing RNAs.