Reporter assays are widely used in applications that require measurement of changes in gene expression over time (e.g. drug screening). With standard reporter vectors, the measurable effect of a treatment or compound (altered reporter activity) is substantially diluted and delayed, compared with its true effect (altered transcriptional activity). This problem is caused by the relatively long half-lives of both the reporter protein and its mRNA. As a result, the activities of compounds, ligands or treatments that have a relatively minor effect, or a substantial but transient effect, often remain undetected. To circumvent this problem, we introduced modular protein- and mRNA-destabilizing elements into a range of commonly used reporters. Our data show that both elements are required for maximal responses to both increases and decreases in transcriptional activity. The double-destabilized reporter vectors showed markedly improved performance in drug screening, kinetic assays and dose-response titrations.