Mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase cascades play a central role in mediating extracellular stimuli-induced intracellular signaling during cell activation. The fourth and least studied mammalian MAP kinase pathway, big MAP kinase 1 (BMK1), also known as extracellular signal regulated kinase 5 (ERK5), is activated in response to growth factors and stress. Activation of this signaling pathway has been implicated not only in physiological functions such as cell survival, proliferation and differentiation but also in pathological processes such as carcinogenesis, cardiac hypertrophy and atherosclerosis. In recent years a series of gene-targeted mice lacking components within the BMK1 cascade have been generated, which have enabled us to investigate the role of the BMK1 pathway within different tissues. Analyses of these knockout mice have led to major discoveries in the role of BMK1 signaling in angiogenesis and in cardiac development. Moreover, studies using conditional BMK1 knockout mice, which circumvent the early embryonic lethality of BMK1 knockouts, have unveiled the importance of BMK1 in endothelial survival and maintenance of vascular integrity during adulthood. Here we summarize current understanding of the function of BMK1, as well as include new data generated from a series of tissue-specific BMK1 knockout mice in an attempt to dissect the role of the BMK1 pathway in various cell types in animals.