We have developed an improved method for determining CAT activity directed by stably (transgenic mice) or transiently (tissue culture cell lines) introduced CAT reporter gene constructs. The procedure is based on the use of a new buffer system which considerably increases the stability of the CAT enzyme during the preparation of the crude cell extracts. When compared to other procedures, our method enables an increase of up to 100-fold in the sensitivity of the assay, depending on the transgenic tissue tested. Furthermore, a strong increase (up to 23-fold) was also observed with various promoter/CAT constructs transiently transfected in established tissue culture cell lines. This increase in sensitivity provides a significant reduction in the time required to perform the CAT assay when strong promoters are studied (from 18 to 1 hr) and is also very useful for the analysis of CAT gene expression driven by weak promoters.