The pattern recognition receptor or receptor for AGE (RAGE) is constitutionally expressed in a few cell types only. However in almost all cells studied so far it is induced by reactions known to initiate inflammation. Its biological activity seems to be mainly dependent on the presence of its various ligands, including AGE, S100-calcium binding protein/calgranulins, high-mobility group protein 1, amyloid-beta-peptides and the family of beta-sheet fibrils, all known to be elevated in chronic metabolic, malignant and inflammatory diseases. The RAGE pathway interacts with cytokine-, lipopolysaccharide-, oxidised LDL- and glucose-triggered cellular reactions by turning a short-lasting inflammatory response into a sustained change of cellular function driven by perpetuated activation of the proinflammatory transcription factor, nuclear factor kappa-B. RAGE-mediated persistent cell activation is of pivotal importance in various experimental and clinical settings, including diabetes and its complications, neurodegeneration, ageing, tumour growth, and autoimmune and infectious inflammatory disease. Due to RAGE's central role in maintaining perpetuated cell activation, various therapeutic attempts to block RAGE or its ligands are currently under investigation. Despite broad experimental evidence for the role of RAGE in chronic disease, knowledge of its physiological function is still missing, limiting predictions about safety of long-term inhibition of RAGE x ligand interaction in chronic diseases.