The Elav-like proteins are specific mRNA binding proteins which are required for cellular differentiation. They contain three characteristic RNP2/RNP1-type RNA binding motifs. Previously we have shown that the first and second RNA binding domains bind to AU-rich elements in the 3'-UTR of mRNA. In this paper we show that the Elav-like proteins exhibit poly(A) binding activity. This activity is distinct from poly(A) binding activities that have been previously described. The Elav-like proteins specifically bind to long chain poly(A) tails. We have shown that the third RNA binding domain encompasses this poly(A) binding activity. Using poly(A)-Sepharose beads in a 'sandwich' assay we have shown that the Elav-like proteins can bind simultaneously to the AU-rich element and to the poly(A) tail.