High molecular group box 1 (HMGB1) is a highly conserved member of the HMG-box-family; abundantly expressed in almost all human cells and released in apoptosis; necrosis or by activated immune cells. Once in the extracellular space, HMGB1 can act as a danger associated molecular pattern (DAMP), thus stimulating or inhibiting certain functions of the immune system; depending on the "combinatorial cocktail" of the surrounding milieu. HMGB1 exerts its various functions through binding to a multitude of membrane-bound receptors such as TLR-2; -4 and -9; IL-1 and RAGE (receptor for advanced glycation end products); partly complex-bound with intracellular fragments like nucleosomes. Soluble RAGE in the extracellular space, however, acts as a decoy receptor by binding to HMGB1 and inhibiting its effects. This review aims to outline today's knowledge of structure, intra- and extracellular functions including mechanisms of release and finally the clinical relevance of HMGB1 and RAGE as clinical biomarkers in therapy monitoring, prediction and prognosis of malignant and autoimmune disease.