It has previously been observed that laboratory-generated quartz optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) signals from different samples have similar dose response curves (DRCs) after they are normalized using a test dose. It therefore seems likely that growth of the normalized signal due to natural irradiation of quartz may also follow a general dose response curve. The existence of such a curve is investigated by constructing a natural DRC from the test dose-normalized natural OSL signals of seven samples from the Luochuan section of the Chinese Loess Plateau. The same aliquots are then used to build single aliquot regenerative (SAR) DRCs, making it possible to compare the natural and laboratory constructed curves. Two main differences are observed. Firstly, the laboratory-generated DRCs are best fitted with double saturating exponential functions whereas the natural DRC is equally well fitted with a single saturating function. Secondly, in the laboratory-generated DRCs the normalized OSL signal continues to increase at high laboratory doses (>500 Gy), whereas no growth is seen at these doses in the equivalent natural DRC. These differences between natural- and laboratory-generated DRCs are still apparent even if data are manipulated to isolate the fast component, or if a sensitivity corrected multiple aliquot regenerative (SC-MAR) dose procedure is used. This suggests that the observed differences are not due to the influence of different components or inter-regenerative dose cycle sensitivity changes. The divergence between the natural- and laboratory-generated DRC means that the current maximum limit of quartz OSL dating at the Luochuan section is 150 Gy, as De estimates above this value are likely to be underestimations. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.