We describe a simple method for the affinity purification of specific RNA-binding proteins. DNA sequences corresponding to the protein-binding site of the RNA are subcloned into an in vitro transcription vector between the T7 viral promoter and a poly(A) track. A polyadenylated RNA transcript is bound to poly(U)-Sepharose and subsequently incubated with a cellular extract prepurified on heparin-agarose. Specifically adsorbed proteins are recovered in high yield and purity from the affinity matrix by high salt elution. Using this method we isolated the iron regulatory factor (IRF), a cytoplasmic protein which binds to specific palindromic elements in the 5' and 3' untranslated sequences of ferritin and transferrin receptor mRNA, respectively. Activation and binding of this regulatory factor correlates with increased transferrin receptor mRNA stability and inhibition of ferritin translation. The purified factor from human placenta migrates as a monomer in gel chromatography, but is present in equimolar amounts of two proteins with molecular weights of 95 and 100 kDa when analysed by SDS/PAGE. The two proteins are highly related as judged by the identity of their isoelectric points and their specificity to form RNA-protein complexes.