The inducible stress protein heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) has been linked to tissue and organ protection against the deleterious actions of many pathological conditions, including endotoxin challenge. Similar protection can be achieved by the main products of heme oxygenase activity, namely bilirubin and carbon monoxide (CO). Since the identification of novel chemical compounds that liberate CO in biological systems (CO-releasing molecules or CO-RMs), our group and others have had access to a convenient and simple pharmacological tool that enables to study the role of CO in physiological functions. This article will review the scientific literature published to date on CO-RMs, with emphasis on the in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo experimental models employed to determine the contribution of CO to cellular mechanisms. In addition, we will report on the effect of heme oxygenase-related substances, such as bilirubin, CORM-3 and hemin, in a model of endotoxin-induced hypotension. Among the three different approaches examined, CORM-3 proved the most effective agent in reducing the fall in blood pressure caused by endotoxin. Furthermore, heme oxygenase-related substances affected the endotoxin-stimulated induction and distribution of hepatic HO-1 and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). Thus, it emerges that CO-RMs could exert important biological actions in the context of endotoxic-mediated dysfunction.