High mobility group box protein 1 (HMGB1) has been considered as a ubiquitous nuclear protein with an architectural function, but even early reports have described its presence outside of the nucleus. Today, we have only started to understand the extranuclear and extracellular functions of HMGB1: we know that it participates in developmental and differentiation processes, triggers and modulates many of the inflammatory cascades in the body, and may even be involved in the metastatic invasion programme of cancer cells. Given such diverse roles, it is important to know which cells express HMGB1, where, and how much. The present review deals with the expression pattern of HMGB1 and provides evidence that, far from being housekeeping, the HMGB1 gene is tightly regulated. This can have implications for therapeutic intervention on inflammatory diseases as well as cancer.