Luciferase reporter constructs are an accurate method of assessing gene promoter activity and vectors constitutively expressing luciferase are useful in quantifying transfection efficiency. Common methodologies for examining the induction of the heat shock (stress) response require exposure of cells transfected with luciferase-expressing vectors to a mild heat stress. Here we re-examine the under-recognised phenomenon that luciferase is exquisitely sensitive to small temperature changes. In cells subjected to mild heat exposure following transfection with both luciferase and beta-galactosidase reporter vectors, a marked reduction in luciferase activity was observed compared with beta-galactosidase activity. On exposing recombinant firefly luciferase to small increases in temperature in vitro, a time and temperature dependent decrease in luciferase activity was demonstrated. Loss of luciferase activity following mild heat exposure will result in misinterpretation of reporter activity. This vastly underappreciated effect is worthy of further emphasis and luciferase reporter vectors should be used with caution in protocols that involve exposure to temperatures outside the physiological range.