Lentiviral vectors are an important tool for gene transfer research and gene therapy purposes. However, the low stability of these vectors affects their production, storage, and efficacy in preclinical and clinical settings. In the present work the mechanism underlying the thermosensitivity of lentiviral vectors was evaluated. For lentiviral vectors pseudotyped with amphotropic and RDpro envelopes, the capacity to perform reverse transcription was lost rapidly at 37 degrees C, in high correlation with the loss of infectivity. The vector with RDpro envelope presented a higher level of stability than that with amphotropic envelope for both the reverse transcription process and viral infectivity. Reverse transcriptase enzyme inactivation and viral template RNA degradation were not implicated in the loss of the viral capacity to perform reverse transcription. Furthermore, early entry steps in the infection process do not determine the rate of viral inactivation, as the amount of viral RNA and p24 protein entering the cells decreased slowly for both vectors. Taken together, it can be concluded that the reverse transcription process is thermolabile and thus determines the rate of lentiviral inactivation. Strategies to stabilize the reverse transcription process should be pursued to improve the applicability of lentiviral vectors in gene therapy.