A systemic inflammatory response is observed in patients undergoing hemorrhagic shock and sepsis. Here we report increased levels of cold-inducible RNA-binding protein (CIRP) in the blood of individuals admitted to the surgical intensive care unit with hemorrhagic shock. In animal models of hemorrhage and sepsis, CIRP is upregulated in the heart and liver and released into the circulation. In macrophages under hypoxic stress, CIRP translocates from the nucleus to the cytosol and is released. Recombinant CIRP stimulates the release of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and HMGB1 from macrophages and induces inflammatory responses and causes tissue injury when injected in vivo. Hemorrhage-induced TNF-α and HMGB1 release and lethality were reduced in CIRP-deficient mice. Blockade of CIRP using antisera to CIRP attenuated inflammatory cytokine release and mortality after hemorrhage and sepsis. The activity of extracellular CIRP is mediated through the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)-myeloid differentiation factor 2 (MD2) complex. Surface plasmon resonance analysis indicated that CIRP binds to the TLR4-MD2 complex, as well as to TLR4 and MD2 individually. In particular, human CIRP amino acid residues 106-125 bind to MD2 with high affinity. Thus, CIRP is a damage-associated molecular pattern molecule that promotes inflammatory responses in shock and sepsis.