Monitoring of gene and protein expression in peripheral blood cells has significant potential for improving the diagnosis and therapy of many human diseases. As genomic-scale microarray and proteomic technologies are applied to peripheral blood, it is important to consider the variables that may affect interpretation of data. Here we report experiments performed to identify genes that are particularly sensitive to ex vivo handling prior to RNA extraction for gene expression microarrays or quantitative real-time RT-PCR assays. We examined Affymetrix gene expression in samples from eight normal individuals where blood was processed for RNA either immediately after blood draw or the next day following overnight incubation. These studies identified hundreds of genes that are sensitive to ex vivo handling of blood, and suggest that this is an important variable to consider when designing and interpreting human PBMC experiments.